Our Greater Manchester pilot project: Introducing Bee Smart

5 young people listen as one young woman shares her thoughts. This is a stock image and does not include those from the Bee Smart pilot project.

We’ve officially launched Bee Smart, our pilot project in Greater Manchester that aims to educate care leavers about online harms.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve held a series of focus groups aimed at identifying areas where additional support is needed.

Reaching out to care leavers

In January, we kicked off our Bee Smart project with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), co-producing media literacy support with and for care leavers in Greater Manchester.

We are thrilled to have received funding from the Government’s Media Literacy Taskforce Fund for this pilot project.

Since beginning our project, we’ve been busy with our research and discovery phase. One of our main objectives is to ensure that the project is genuinely co-productive and informed by the needs of care leavers and those who work with them. For this reason, we’ve been speaking directly with care leavers, Personal Advisers, Digital Inclusion Leads and local organisations in Greater Manchester to identify care leavers’ needs and how best we can work together to improve media literacy among this group.

We ran a series of focus groups to identify areas where more support could be provided to care leavers to improve their online experiences. Following these discussions, we produced a plan which laid out our findings. This plan was shared with care leavers and professionals who work with them to ensure that we understood their priorities correctly, and to explore any unanswered questions.

First off, this was a hugely interesting process. We’re very grateful to all those who have taken the time to speak to us – the information they’ve shared has been critical in shaping our action plan for the project.

Resources document

Visit the Gov.UK website to find out more about DCMS’s Media Literacy Taskforce Fund.

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The key things we’ve learnt

  • The topics that care leavers identified as needing the most help with online are hate speech, sexual grooming and abuse, cyberbullying and financial scams.

“I can’t go on social media for a day without seeing something racist.” – Male care leaver

“You can’t really get away from him, he’s everywhere.” – Male care leaver, 20, on Andrew Tate

“Someone asked me for money… Just looking back I think I made a mistake [for sending them money through a cash app].” – Male care leaver, 24

  • Care leavers highlighted the lack of support they receive when it comes to online harms.

“School should tell you a lot more about that sort of stuff… They just push it to one side.” – Female care leaver, 18

  • Personal Advisers shared that the young people they work with often don’t raise online issues with them, and they only find out about them from third parties.

“I know about the harms of the internet but regarding the young people I work with it seems like it’s only when it goes wrong that I know about their involvement in what’s going on online.” – Male Personal Adviser

Introducing Bee Smart

During these focus groups, we were delighted to have also found a name for the project that both care leavers and Personal Advisers like: Bee Smart! We thought this was a wonderful choice, as it’s short and catchy, and can become a recognisable brand associated with positive messaging around online safety. And of course, we love that it incorporates Manchester’s bee theme.

Over the next few months, our content team at Internet Matters will be reviewing our existing resources and tailoring them to meet the specific needs of care leavers. This will involve drawing upon the insights we gathered in the focus groups to create fun and engaging resources.

We’re also excited to explore the possibility of co-creating further digital content with young people, which could help us reach a wider audience and better engage care leavers in the region.

As ever, if you would like to learn more about this project please contact the author at [email protected].

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