The Australian Government’s Office of eSafety is reaching out to high school students to assist in increasing digital literacy for older Australians and building intergenerational relationships.
The Be Connected Young Mentors Program was launched in March.
eSafety Project Manager Jill McNaught explained that being connected doesn’t just mean helping seniors to get online and do it safely – it is also about developing students’ leadership skills community connection, and “…breaking down the stereotypes on both sides of the generational gap”.
The Young Mentors Program is based on research which indicated seniors wanted one-on-one support. They also wish to choose what they want to learn rather than what is prescribed through a structured learning process.
The student mentors are given three hours of training which covers mentoring skills, how to mentor an older person, the barriers that may need to be overcome, the safety and boundaries of the relationship, the benefits of mentoring for both cohorts and learning about the Be Connected learning resources.
Pilot project member Manly Computer Pals chose to partner with 20 Year 9 students from several Northern Beaches (Sydney) schools involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
For the Bronze Award under the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, students need to complete 13 weeks of community service. The students received three hours of Be Connected training and then did 10 weeks of mentoring.
Manly Computer Pals paired students with 20 seniors who brought in their own Android or Apple devices and met with the mentors for one-hour sessions to address their individual needs.
Questions were about whatever difficulty the seniors had with their own devices.
The seniors said that they increased their digital skills and confidence and are now feeling more independent and more confident in the use of technology. They were also surprised at how kind, helpful and patient the young students were.
For more information and to register an organisation’s interest in participating, go to esafety.gov.au/seniors/be-connected-young-mentors.