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How do we define vulnerable youth?

For the purpose of this “How to?” document, we broadly understand vulnerability as follows:

  • Young people with transient problems: Young people with sudden, relatively temporary, personal or relational problems, facing challenges such as bullying, relationships, puberty, etc.
  • Marginalised young people: These are young people whose everyday life has been or may be characterised by violence, sexual abuse, negligence, substance abuse, crime, psychiatric or mental disorders, lack of attachment to school and lack of positive adult relationships.

This definition encompasses children and youth who either do not have the capacities to achieve a “normal” level of functioning in one or more life domains, or to some extent have special needs in regard to support or helping aids to achieve a “normal” level of functioning and thriving.

The online universe can be a tool of help, a social “home” and a safe space for vulnerable children and youth. At the same time, using the digital arena in a sensible and appropriate manner requires insight, which might prove challenging for vulnerable children and youth in particular.

We see an overrepresentation of vulnerable children and youth who – over and over again – end in unfortunate online situations as either victim or offender.

Among other things, this is because they may struggle to:

  • Understand social interactions and unwritten norms online.
  • Read and decode social codes and sense their own and others’ personal boundaries.
  • Understand the consequences of one´s actions and take others’ point of view.
  • Form experiences and transfer experiences from one setting to another.

For this reason, vulnerable children and youth need tools which can help them communicate online in a sensible and appropriate manner, in order for them to be safely included in digital communities. We believe SELMA provides this kind of tool.