Headlines: September 30th, 2008

Councils are being encouraged to harness the potential of social networking sites to engage with young people. The think tank, the Local Government Information Unit believes the online sites can be used to increase youth participation in the democratic process and in the delivery of children’s services and it is leading a group of authorities to promote the idea.

It is calling on local authorities to work with other public, private and voluntary sector service providers to develop their capacity and commitment to communicating with young people through social networking. The call comes after an LGiU survey of more than 45 councils found that half of respondents believed there was a place for the networking sites in schools as long as their use was monitored carefully.

Almost two thirds of those taking part in the survey said the sites were crucial in encouraging young people’s participation. The majority of respondents also disagreed with the idea that social networking sites are detrimental to children’s social skills.

Jasmine Ali, head of the Children’s Services Network at the LGiU, said, “Social networking is an amazing medium for children’s services and if we are to get more people involved in the political process, we need to think about these sites as another avenue.” The CSN has launched a pathfinder group of local authorities to champion the use of social networking.

LGiU chief executive Andy Sawford said social networking had the potential to revolutionise how councils engaged with children and young people. He told a conference, “Through sites like Facebook we can get thousands involved in the design and delivery of services, and we can re-energise our democracy by empowering young people in our communities.”