Jason He, from Child Helpline International’s #Youth, reflects on his experiences as a youth working at Kidsline in New Zealand. During his presentation at the 9th International Consultation of Child Helplines yesterday, he explored how young people engage with social media, the culture and stigma around child helplines that need to change, and how we can achieve all of this together.

Jason He

Jason takes to the stage at the International Consultation of Child Helplines with fellow presenters Chelsea Mulvale (We Matter), Jessie Brar (jack.org), Levi Meulensteen (De Kindertelefoon) and Mark Jordan (Kids Help Phone).

 

Kia ora, everybody!

I am one of the youth advisory council members and I have also been apart of Kidsline, one of the helplines in New Zealand for over six years now. Kidsline is a near-peer or peer-to-peer support service for children up to the age of 18. We recruit and train young people to support and empower other young people who call. I started off as one of the buddies who took calls when I was 16 and now I’m one of the shift supervisors who support and look after other youth volunteers taking calls, and their training.

Being a youth working with other young people, I believe that in order to figure out how to ignite youth participation through social media, we must first explore how young people engage and use social media today. This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a teacher when Kidsline went to visit her school; she said something along the lines of “back in my day the school was so loud and full of life, but now when I walk in in the morning it’s so quiet, it’s scary… you can’t tell that there’s a thousand kids in the campus, because they are all just sitting there on their phones!”

Whether you agree with this new generation or not, this is the reality of the situation. I argue that although kids may not be as loud in volume now, they are actually communicating louder but just online. It’s louder because whatever they say or do online now can take so many forms, from blogs, photos, or videos. Whatever they post or send is also most likely to be permanent and capable of reaching a global audience in little to no time at all. The internet has made any information you want so easy to access. Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat has become a big art of a lot of young people’s lives and also their identities. If you want to find out more about a person or what they like or what they are doing, that’s how. Social media has become a platform for young people to express themselves.

That being said, social media is a powerful tool that can be used for a lot of good but as we are all aware it is also the source for a lot of negative experiences as well, such as bullying, identity theft, scams, and abuse. I believe there are already some new child helpline initiatives we will hear about over the conference, where they are coordinating with social media platforms to make reaching out for help easier for young people. Which is very exciting.

One of the biggest issues I’ve experienced working at a child helpline is trying to boost our social media presence. We found that young people don’t want to associate their identities with child helplines. I found that there is a lot of stigma attached to to liking, subscribing or following a child helpline online, much like there is a lot of stigma attached around asking for help. I beli

eve that asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or being less than, but instead it should be seen as a self aware and courageous step for anyone to take, not only for children. This is a culture that we should all aim to change over time!

A way we could achieve this, I believe, is through youth development. I think we should invest in and empower as many young people with the basic skills and resources that all you professionals out there have. I know I have benefited a lot and matured the most during those crucial years of my life as a young adult volunteering for a child helpline. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn but more importantly I built a very strong support network around me. Creating a supportive culture started with our young people. I find it very reassuring to know that back at home there are a group of young people out in my community equipped with the skills and resources to be able to help themselves as well as to provide support for their peers in need too.

Honestly, social media is forever changing and growing rapidly. Even I sometimes find it hard to keep up with the latest social media trends, and the words that kids are using nowadays. So why not train the experts in social media to be able to help each other? I think we should collectively show young people empathy and not sympathy, demonstrate what support looks like, what self care is, and help them discover the people or organizations that could further assist them in their journeys. Use social media as a the platform to empower our youth.

Thank you!

Jason

 

  • Text of Jason’s speech during the session “Social Media – A Catalyst to Ignite Youth Participation”