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Digital world excludes NEETs

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-11-53-08A REPORT prepared by the Prince’s Trust and Samsung has called for greater digital inclusion for Wales’ most disadvantaged young people

The research, carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), reveals that the disadvantages young people face offline are preventing them from making the most of the online world.

The report finds that a staggering 46% of young people who are currently not in employment, education or training (NEETs) in Wales believe that no one or almost no one can be trusted online

‘Slipping through the Net’, a report carried out by Dr Ellen Helsper at the LSE, reveals a clear distrust by Wales’ most disadvantaged young people of online interactions, which is a major obstacle in harnessing the d igital world to improve their situation.

While 53% of the UK’s disadvantaged young people believe that information found on the internet is ‘generally reliable’, 50% say that no one or almost no one could be trusted online.

While these young people were positive towards the potential benefits of ICTs (Information Communication Technology), they often ran into frustrations, from what they perceived as dehumanising experiences.

The report’s author, Dr Ellen J Helsper, Associate Professor in Media and Communications at LSE, said: “Whilst some of the young people we spoke to in the focus groups were resigned to the fact that this is an inevitable consequence of online interactions, many reported taking drastic action such as disconnecting altogether.”

Disadvantaged young people are using ICTs more to engage in employment related activities, yet they were less likely than their peers to succeed, even partially, through this medium (46% compared to 65% of their employed peers). Similarly, over half of these young people did not obtain a formal qualification through ICTs that they could not have obtained otherwise.

NEET young people expressed a preference to apply for jobs in person, rather than digitally, in particular because of the lack of follow up messages received from employers online. Many of these young people, who have a history with rejection, took this as a further setback.

One young person who took part in a focus group said: “I’m only going to find the local jobs and then I’ll go into the place and hand in my CV and stop there.”

Disadvantaged young people are also being held back in the digital world by their lack of softer social skills. Around 40% of them struggled with ‘netiquette’, that is decisions about their own behaviour or dealing with the negative behaviour of others online. The report shows that this issue also affects young people who are in education, employment or training.

Dr Helsper said: “Most of the time, the young people we interviewed in the focus group did not realise that these are skills which could be learnt and used to advance in life. Only more technical skills such as those taught in school were seen as requiring training.”

Only 17% of NEETs – arguably those who need it the most – had asked for help with using ICTs in the last three months. When they did ask, these young people relied on a narrower and less expert network of support often unable to teach them sustainable skills, instead of going to professionals such as help desks or teachers.

Philip Jones, Director of The Prince’s Trust Cymru, said: “We need to dispel the myth that all millennials know how to make the most of the digital world. Many disadvantaged young people, as this research shows, are not achieving positive outcomes online, in particular when it comes to education or employment. The findings show that a lot of young people struggle with social interactions online. We should ensure that these softer social skills, including safeguarding, are included in training programmes.”

The series of recommendations in the report also calls on employers to develop new digital services to avoid frustrating experiences, such as a lack of communication in particular with regards to online job applications.

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Dayne Stone

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