Youth centres have been closed in the spring due to the coronavirus. Normally the youth centres provide a safe, intoxicant-free place for youth to spend their leisure time in. Youth centres offer diverse activities, clubs and events, and opportunities to meet friends. As the youth centres are closed, youth workers are arranging activities and reaching young people in digital environments.
Youth centre activities have been continuing online. Youth Services of the City of Espoo has opened a digital youth space in Discord. Discord is free and can be accessed through a web browser or a mobile app. Since March approximately 400 young people have found the Discord channel.
“Those who spend more time online, found the space easily and have been spending time there daily. Little by little more people have found the place when we have organized different activities there,” says youth worker Tuomas Rapp.
Youth workers have been trying different kind of methods to do youth work during the spring as they have continued youth centre activities online. In addition to the Discord channel youth centres have for example used their Instagram accounts to post about games, to hold cooking events and to hang out sharing latest news. Youth workers have also tried entirely new social media channels, such as TikTok. Digital youth work creates possibilities for greater equality and accessibility. For some young people, taking part in youth activities digitally might be easier.
“Those who don’t usually visit youth centres have now been participating digitally,” says Rapp.
The many ways of using Discord
The digital youth space is versatile. In the open chat channels young people can talk with each other or with the youth workers. They can also search gaming company from the gaming channels. There can be different kinds of competitions, puzzles, or quizzes.
“You can send live video footage to the channel so you would be able to have remote club activities there, for example cooking or hobby crafts,” Rapp says.
Youth workers lead the activities online, but young people are encouraged to active participation. Young people can organize activities in the digital youth space themselves.
“On May Day we had one young person acting as a DJ. People could wish for songs, and they would play them online. Now one of the young people is organizing a CS:GO game tournament,” Rapp explains.
Although the youth centres will open again in August, the digital youth work in Discord will continue.
“We have a group of youth workers who will oversee the channel in autumn. The channel will be open twice a week,” Rapp explains.
In addition to keeping in touch digitally, youth work also takes place outdoors. The majority of young people stay at home as instructed and do not come together. However, it’s important that those young people who are outdoors for one reason or another also get to hear accurate information about the ongoing situation. Therefore youth workers are also doing detached youth work and meet young people outside.