Reflecting on YouthLink’s Digital Youth Work Conference 2022

February 9, 2022

The conference on Safer Internet Day (8 Feb 2022) highlighted the wealth of opportunities children and young people have gained from our growing online world. It also emphasised the increased importance of cyber resilience to navigate the risks it presents. Here we share some of our highlights from the day.



The event kicked off with 4 keynote speakers, including our own CEO Allie Cherry-Byrnes.

In her talk “You’re on Mute”, Allie Cherry-Byrnes (Fast Forward) highlighted some of the risks children and young people face around new digital technologies such as gambling-like features in games, and how we can adapt and address these new challenges through good youth work practice.

Paul Keating’s (Limerick Institute of Technology) “Games for Social Change” presentation emphasised the value of games to critically analyse and challenge social norms. He then applied this to modern video games – supposing that theorists like Paolo Freire and Augusto Boal would have jumped at the opportunity to use video games to generate social change. Some examples of video games that encourage critical thinking are “Spent”, “September 12th” and “McDonald’s”. We also know of a great gambling-themed game called “House of Wisdoms” by the Responsible Gambling Council. If working in a youth work setting, why not try these out with your group?

Karen Renaud (University of Strathclyde) introduced us to the concepts of “Nudges” and “Sludges”. Nudges use ideas from behavioural science to influence people to make decisions that benefit them or wider society, without limiting their choices. For example:

  • Warning messages on cigarette packs
  • The smiley face speed camera signs you often see on the road
  • The 10p charge of plastic bags in supermarkets

In contrast, “Sludges” are where companies use these tactics to generate profit, often at the cost of the individual. For example:

  • Airlines trying to get you to spend more money on add-ons
  • Subscription traps
  • Overly complicated return procedures

The gambling industry often uses behavioural interventions like these to encourage gambling more and at higher stakes. Luckily, being aware of these tactics can reduce the risk of harm.

Donna and Tina from our Scottish Gambling Education Hub facilitated one of the morning workshops. They spoke about the risks that have emerged from the growing connection between gaming and gambling. They also highlighted how we can foster digital wellbeing by providing tools to recognise and reduce risk of harm.

If you’d like to find out more about gambling and digital wellbeing, you can attend our free 1-hour webinars on 9 March or 17 March.


The afternoon featured an eye-opening discussion with Matthew McStravick (Deepr) around the importance and value of creating human connection in online spaces – a task that is challenging to achieve, but provides immense value particularly where online support is offered to young people.

The day ended for us on another high as we got to experience The Big Data Show – an innovative and interactive theatre experience blending digital technology, gaming and live performance. The show told the real-life story of a teenager who hacked into Prince Philip’s email account in 1984, while teaching us about how our data is used online, how loss of privacy can impact our lives and what we can to protect our data online.

For us, the day produced a wealth of new ideas on how we can use digital tools to raise awareness, learn, inspire and be inspired alongside the young people we work with. We want to thank YouthLink Scotland and all organisers and contributors for a fantastic conference!