Posts Tagged ‘social media surgeries’

Cyber-bullying, Internet Safety and Social Media Surgeries

Posted on 26th April 2013 by

Tragedy of Cyberbullying

We’re currently working with BRAG, Bullying Reduction Action Group, supported by the POD and Link2ICT to pilot a project in the Nechells area of Birmingham, working with schools to develop a social media surgery that focuses on skills as well as conversations around internet safety and cyber bullying.

We’ve been working with students from Heartlands Academy from years 7, 9 and 12 to turn them into surgeons and inviting groups of parents in as patients so that they can be taught how to use the sites and tools that their children maybe using, and to discuss any concerns they may have with them using “the internet” with their children’s peers.

We’d held a session at the beginning of the project to identify what the students thought of the  internet, what sites they used and how aware they were of their own and others safety online. We then held the same session with parents and teachers and the differences were vast. The students had identified way more sites they were using than the parents and teachers even knew of , and even if the adults knew of a site or platform they were in most occasions not using it themselves so were maybe unable to properly advise on security and privacy settings to help the students keep themselves safe.


Last night was the second open surgery, where we had a group of year 9 students on hand to answer parents questions and we had 5 patients come for support.  Their questions were varied from “How do I stop my child from using Facebook?”; “How do I set myself up on Facebook”  to “How do YOU keep yourself safe online?”. Answers in short ranged from you “You can’t – but have you thought about coming to an agreement with him like this that I have with my Mom”; “Here let me show you how…” and “Like this…”

Every parent that came in I spoke to before and after the surgery and all of them were impressed by the advice they were given, one even commented that she felt better able to go and talk about Facebook to her own daughter, now she “knew what she was talking about”.   The students had really enjoyed becoming the teacher, and some great conversations had taken place.

We’re just about to move into the second phase of the project – introducing parents from a local junior school to the surgeries, focusing on years 5 and 6, the parents of the students who will soon be looking for their places at senior school,  finding much larger circles of friends and potentially becoming  more active users of social networks themselves as a result.


I’m really enjoying this project. The students have been amazing and the parents really open to being guided by “experts” much younger than themselves, and I’ve done my fair share of learning too. There were sites the students mentioned and conversations that have taken place that has prompted me to go home and have fairly frank conversations with my 13 year old son. Practically though I’ve also learned a thing or 2 about running a project like this. They are:

  • Plan in advance. Schools are busy places with lots of sports clubs and other extra curricular activities. Trying to schedule sessions around these was hard so plan early and try and get a regular slot.
  • Schools internet access SUCKS! – For someone who is used to open internet access pretty much everywhere I go working with in the restraints of a school building was hard! All the sites we were discussing Facebook, Twitter etc were blocked, so this goes back to point 1. Plan in advance and get the schools network admins to unblock the computers you’ll be working from. (Or do what I did take a  MiFi and my own laptop – although only works with decent 3G coverage)
  • Parent involvement early on is a must. Communicating well to parents what the aims of the project are and how the surgeries would work was really important – That way when they attended the surgeries they weren’t surprised to be sat down learning from someone their children’s ages instead of being talked at my an “expert”.
  • Working with students from different year groups has worked well,  pairing the year 7 students with year 9 & 12 students has helped them to deliver support, and opened up conversations across the year groups – as while the Yr 7 students may have the tech skills and experience, they don’t necessarily have the communication skills the older students have to enable them to get to the bottom of the things the parents really wanted to know.

Using Social Media to Improve Perceptions of Saftey

Posted on 1st February 2013 by

At the moment we are in the middle of a project working with the South Birmingham Safety Partnership. This involves running social media surgeries across communities in South Birmingham to improve civic conversations in those areas, get the communities and local partners talking to each other talking to each and getting their news online and hopefully by doing so positively changing their perceptions of safety.

Yesterday we had our second session in the Kings Norton. Jo Burrows, senior youth worker at the Three Estates Youth Project came along. Jo, by her own admission was a complete novice when it came to social media – she didn’t trust it – and this came through her lack of understanding of the tools that were available. After just one Social Media Surgery with us we managed to change some of those misgivings and set her up with her own blog for the Project.  Here’s what she had to say :


Social Media Surgeries building real world connections in Wolverhampton communities.

Posted on 10th January 2013 by

Low Hill Social Media Surgery 11th October 2012


For the last six months we have been involved in a project in Wolverhampton bringing Social Media Surgeries to different neighbourhoods across the city.   At the surgeries all the help we and the other surgeons give has been recorded on our Social Media Surgery + website, but what is been really interesting having attended every surgery in the city so far is watching  the things that have happened, and the connections made that weren’t recorded on the website – The things that aren’t just to do with social media.

Today for instance at the Low Hill surgery, a semi regular attendee Jaswinder (or Handsome to his friends), came along to learn more about twitter, but  what was quite strange, even by our standards, was he hadn’t come for help from one of the volunteer surgeons already there . He’d bought his own surgeon with him, Ian!   –  Handsome had been to previous sessions and seen the value of the surgeries as a place to come, have a cup of tea, learn and to meet new people, so he’d bought Ian along so that they could work together in an environment he felt comfortable in, but also so that Ian could meet people from the area too.

Then there was Lorna who also came along today. Lorna is new to Low Hill, moving back to England from overseas a few months ago. She wanted to come and learn how to use social media as she’d heard that was a good way to find out what was going on and to meet new people. Which of course it is and we helped her look at her options to find things she could get involved with online, but also while there she was introduced to Tony and George (pictured above).

Tony is the chair and George the vice chair of the Low Hill Community Association and they are charged with running the community centre and as such know all of the activities and events that take place there. As I left this afternoon Lorna was in the process of becoming a fully paid up member so she could join some of the groups and take part in activities running there – but also during the session we’d introduced her to Keith. Keith is a board member of the Low Hill and Scotlands LNP, who alongside myself (as a member of the board for Wednesfield and Falling Park LNP) and some of the LNP Neighbourhood wardens who were in attendance, told her about the work of the Local Neighbourhood Partnerships, Keith took her details and now he’s going along to their next board meeting. – She’d come for some help just to find out what was going on locally, and left signed up to two very active groups!

Then there was a surgery early on in the project that the local police sergeant attended. Sgt Gary Passmore. Gary came along to learn how to use a twitter account for his role in the police, he already had an account, but just needed some guidance on some of the functions and terminology. Around the same period of time there were some quite serious rumours doing the rounds about an attempted abductions locally.  I’d heard them as Low Hill borders Wednesfield so they’d been posted onto the WV11 facebook page, and despite many people openly questioning the validity and the variations of the posts (different coloured car, different locations etc) they just weren’t going away. Obviously people were worried so when some attendees of the surgery saw a police office present they chose then to question him about it.  Gary was great, he allayed peoples fears and was able to speak to some key members of the Low Hill community who could help spread the accurate information for him through their networks, and also I took the opportunity to post an update to the  WV11 facebook page at the same time – Gary had come for some technically support but left having managed to connect to his community and help stop the spread of a pretty nasty rumour in the process.

There are many more examples I could give you just like there,  members of the WFTA meeting people from Tenants and residents groups and finding out about local issues, Tenants and Residents connecting with newly established local social enterprises, Neighbourhood wardens meeting their communities and on, and I’m sure this isn’t unique to this one surgery.

This for me is the unrecorded hidden value of surgeries, it may start with a simple “How can we help you online?” but they quickly develop into interactions that can help shape communities in the real world. All of these interactions have nothing to do with the internet, online tools, social media etc but have everything to do with the people. All the surgeries do is bring these people together in the same room, with a common purpose and give them the opportunity to talk.