My Digital Journey (MDJ) ©  – Karen Holladay, Nancy Rumble, Heather Barbour and Franca Iannotta

All youth are online, and increasingly this is the medium through which they engage with each other and the broader world (Unicef, 2017) Given the statistics regarding the average time American youth spend on-line (Wallace, 2015), it is inevitable that their world view is being shaped by their use of, and interactions on, the multiple platforms available to them (e.g. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, TicTok to name but a few) (Roberts, 2017; Common Sense, date unknown; Burgess et al, 2016).  It is therefore imperative that together we all understand the digital choices that they make, especially when those choices may lead them to be exploited, and/or to exploit others.

Our current comprehensive assessments for youth who commit sexual offences have recognised the importance of exploring the youth’s online behaviour but they have often been limited to a tertiary scanning for areas of concern. This approach appears to miss the greater opportunity to evaluate our clients’ digital citizenship (getdigitalsafe.gc.ca) so that we can incorporate their knowledge and experiences into our understanding of their strengths and needs.

To this end, we have developed a non-judgmental and developmentally appropriate reflective tool to help understand and chronicle a youth’s digital experience, entitled My Digital Journey (MDJ) ©. It is intended to be used as an adjunct to supplement a comprehensive assessment for youth who have committed sexual offences. Our goal is to understand the youth’s digital footprint including the needs, thoughts and functions of their digital activity within the context of their developmental milestones. Likewise, we believe it is important to highlight the strengths and resiliency of each youth within their digital world as these protective factors will be fundamental to their on-line decision making.

MDJ© explores their social media savvy, on-line literacy and communication style. Moreover, MDJ© is intended to provide an opportunity to support the client’s strengths, safe choices and skills.  It also serves to identify potential educational and corrective opportunities that could be incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan, based on the global understanding of the youth. In addition to the client workbook, the authors have also developed a caregiver/parent questionnaire to assist in exploring additional areas of both strengths and concerns from the perspective of the caregiver. 

Developing a validated tool that could remain current and up-to-date, given the lightning speed of the digital age, is prohibitive and unrealistic. It is therefore our collective assertion that a neutral approach which emphasises simply gathering and tracking the client’s digital footprint is best/preferred. My Digital Journey (MDJ) © is a tool through which youth can share and explore their digital activity with the clinician.

The neutrality and user accessibility of the tool is vital. This position is founded upon a number of factors.  Stating or implying judgment within the questions could be a limiting factor to full disclosure by our clients. Secondly, technology is constantly evolving and so clinicians and clients alike need to be encouraged to develop a critical, evaluative stance when using technology. This ensures that we all are approaching the material with an inquisitive and dynamic mindset. Thirdly, neutralizing the generational hierarchy (among clients and clinicians) is important in order to elevate the clients to be competent agents of their own life choices. Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, as professionals, we want to remain neutral in evaluating online activity because we recognise the great potential for shaming when youth begin to explore their sexuality using technology. 

MDJ© is premised on the assertion that most of the online activity by children and youth is not harmful in nature, however, it is fraught with unknowns where critical judgement skills can be promoted (Livingstone, 2013; Livingstone et al, 2017).

Clinicians who choose to use this tool are called upon to consider how they might approach the material from a non-judgemental position in an effort to support the development of the critical thinking skills necessary for youth to become more thoughtful digital citizens.

To access the MDJ© Booklet, Clinician’s guide, and Caregiver/Parent Questionnaire, the reader is invited to download it from https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9lvpfdsciv0lz8r/AACjBSwpfVr3IvBANOzdynLua

Karen Holladay, Consulting Clinical Therapist

Nancy Rumble, Consulting Clinical Therapist

Heather Barbour, Consulting Clinical Therapist

Franca Iannotta, Consulting Psychologist

Children’s Health Services, Ontario

Hello users of My Digital Journey (MDJ),

It has been 8 months since the launch of MDJ, and we hope you have had an opportunity to use this assessment tool with some success. Given that MDJ is an evolving tool, we would value your feedback in order to a) improve the tool and b) inform us as to what is helpful and/or challenging about the tool. We have developed a short, 10 question survey and would very much appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to complete it. It will likely only take you 7-10 minutes to complete. Given that post-pandemic use may be quite different than pre-pandemic use (e.g. virtual vs in person), we are asking that responses reflect only pre-pandemic use (i.e. from September 2019 through February 2020). Please be assured that your responses will be anonymous as we would like your candid feedback. The survey will be available for completion until July 15, 2020. The link to the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X3Q86MW

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

  1. Barbour, BSW,RSW, K. Holladay, Dip. C.S., R.P., F A. Iannotta, C. Psych, N. Rumble, MSc, MSW, RSW

If you have any questions, please contact:

Karen Holladay

kholladay@sympatico.ca

References

Burgess, J., Cassidy, E., Duguay, S., Light, B. (2016) Making Digital Cultures of Gender and Sexuality With Social Media.  Social Media and Society. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305116672487.

Common Sense (date unknown) The Common Sense Census:  Media Use By Tweens And Teens. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/census_researchreport.pdf

Livingstone, S. (2013).  Online risk, harm and vulnerability: Reflections on the evidence base for child internet safety policy. 

Livingstone, S., Davidson, J., Bryce, J, Batool, S, Haughton, C. and Nandi, A. (2017).  Children’s online activities, risks and safety: A literature review by the UKCCIS Evidence Group, October 2017.

Roberts, B. (2017) https://scrollingbeyondbinaries.com/2017/01/23/is-there-something-queer-about-tumblr.

Unicef (2017) Children In A Digital World.

Wallace, K (2015).  CNN.   ‘Teens spend a ‘mind-boggling’ 9 hours a day using media, report says’ https://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html.

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