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MINISTER for Children & Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald TD has called on agencies which provide support to young people online to work together to ensure young people don’t fall through the cracks.
The Minister made her remarks as she opened an event on Saturday hosted by Facebook, SpunOut.ie and CoderDojo to find creative ways to make help services more accessible to young people online.
Over 40 young hackers gathered at Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock to develop innovative solutions to encourage young people to access health related services through a dedicated platform hosted on SpunOut.ie
The Minister praised Facebook, SpunOut.ie and CoderDojo for taking a lead in reshaping how young people access help services online.
“Thank you for coming together to bring your expertise and to use it in a hackathon, Facebook's well-used method to find creative solutions to problems and look at how we can use this rapidly changing world of technology to reach young people who are so familiar with that world.” said Minister Fitzgerald.
“I see this great interagency work being done and it reminds me of the reports that go across my desk about child deaths and child protection in Ireland.”
“In the new technology area - I don’t want to see people making the same mistakes that perhaps the more traditional methods have made in not working together.”
“This is a great example of inter-agency work. One of the key points that comes up again and again is the need for inter-agency work when dealing with young people's safety and that's exactly what you're doing here this morning.” she added.
“Peer education and peer support and you are the best people to find new technologies that get the right piece of help to young people when they need it.”
Facebook’s Policy Director, for the UK & Ireland Simon Milner said:
"It is fantastic to see so many talented developers giving up their time on a Saturday to join Facebook, SpunOut.ie and CoderDojo to build creative ways to help people find and access support services online. Safety of the people who use Facebook, particularly young people, is central to everything we do and we're excited to see the technical solutions people build today."
Participants at the hackathon took the database already developed by SpunOut.ie and used the application programming interface (API) to develop applications so young people can be better matched with health services in their local area and respond to their needs.
The award for best idea went to a team who developed a multi platform app called ‘Mojo - My Own Journal’ which used CBT principles and non-clinical language to get young people to self-direct their own positive mental health and direct them to services when they need them. The team won €1,000 in Facebook advertising credits for their efforts.
Second prize went to another multi-platform app called “Life Hack” which used gamification to encourage users to actively prevent their mental health from deteriorating by rewarding users with points for a healthy balance of sleep, exercise, talking and eating well. The app centres around an anonymous character designed by the user and in order to keep your character alive you are encouraged to sleep well, be reasonably active, talk to friends more and eat a good diet. The app tracks users’ sleep, activity and how much they talk to friends to calculate the points to keep their character alive.
“We wanted to showcase how the Internet can be used as a platform for good.” says John Buckley, youth engagement officer with SpunOut.ie
“Despite the pitfalls we experience online from time to time, this project demonstrates how we can use it to improve young people’s health and potentially save lives.” he added.
According to Buckley, “Young people can sometimes find it very difficult to get access to relevant health and help services online, we hope this event produced something which will break down that barrier for young people and provide tech solutions to a generation of digital natives.”
This is the first hackathon of its kind to be hosted in the Irish HQ of a major platform.
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