Published: 14/06/2013 14:50
The main role of youth information today is to support young people in becoming independent. It is also a prerequisite for participation - Alexandra Beweis from the Austrian Association of Youth Information Centres writes about the role of youth information today.
Centrum Informacji Młodzieżowej w Hiszpanii. Takich centrów działa w Europie ponad 7500
Generalist Youth Information was created in the 1960ies following the need for accurate, unbiased and customized information for young people. Since then society and its needs have changed significantly, but the overall aim to provide young people with information as a basis for their independence is still valid nowadays, perhaps even more than before.
The most important underlying principle of Youth Information has always been and still is to support young people in becoming independent. Youth is characterized among other things by the transition from childhood to adulthood – from depending on family, school and other institution to being independent and responsible for ones own actions and decisions. This means that within a relatively short phase young people have to take a wide range of decisions that will have a major impact on their lives. Education and employment are only the most obvious examples. Detachment from the family of origin in combination with finding out who they are touching subjects such as political orientation, lifestyle and relationships are another big part of this period. This is a challenge even if they are not faced with further complications such as coming from a disadvantaged background, failing in school for any reason or getting into trouble with e.g. drugs or violence.
Many young people get through this phase without problems with the help of family, friends and school or other institutions, others need more assistance, but all of them need to know about their options, opportunities and services available to be able to take knowledge-based decisions. Youth Information provides the youngsters with this information in a targeted and understandable way as well as helps them through various interventions to analyse the available information for relevance, accuracy and usability.
Information in general and Youth Information in particular is also a prerequisite for participation, only who knows about his/her rights and duties can be an active part of society. Young people are new to the system and need information and guidance for being able to find their place in a more and more complex surrounding. Youth Information responds to that request by services made especially for this target group as well as by taking an active role in prevention. Young people may also face extensive periods of free time e.g. due to breaks in their school career or when lacking to find a first job. By showing them alternatives and useful ways to spend this time Youth Information contributes to keeping them from just hanging out on the street or getting into harmful behaviour.
Over the last decade a new, additional role has emerged for Youth Information linked to the success of the Internet in particular and new technologies in general and the big impact this has had our everyday life. In the Information or even Knowledge Society information services that are still viewing face-to-face contact as a central value might seem out-dated at first glance. Looking closer it becomes clear that the role of Youth Information is transforming from information providers to information guides. Handling the information overload requires a wide range of skills and knowledge and unlike adults who can at least rely on their experience young people have to learn how to deal with it from scratch. Guidance on finding the relevant information, evaluating and assessing it and judging if the found information really is reliable and meets the needs of the moment is therefore a new and demanding role of Youth Information today.
Alexandra Beweis is working as the director of Bundesnetzwerk “Österreichische Jugendinfos” - the national umbrella organisation of Youth Information Centres in Austria. She was Vice-President of ERYICA from 2006 – 2012. She is the author of “History & development of Youth Information in Europe” and “Youth Information Starter Kit” published under her married name of Cangelosi.