ENGAGING JUVENILE DELINQUENTS AND YOUTHS-AT-RISK: YOUTH WORKERS’ USE OF FACEBOOK FOR MEDIATED PASTORALISM
Youth work seeks to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents for re-entry into mainstream society and to prevent youths-at-risk from falling into delinquency, thus necessitating that youth workers assiduously monitor their clients. With the avid use of social media by youths, youth workers must also adopt these communication platforms to reach out to their young clients. Drawing from interviews with youth workers, this study analyses how they use Facebook to communicate with their clients and monitor their activities. Surveillance forms a key thrust of youth workers’ professional use of Facebook, enhancing their ability to oversee these youths’ personal development for the purposes of mentoring and rehabilitation. Contrary to dystopian, power-centric conceptions of surveillance, the study finds that the youth workers’ surveillance of their clients is undergirded by care and beneficence, better understood using Foucault’s concept of pastoralism. Through mediated pastoralism via Facebook, these youth workers can derive a more extensive picture of their clients, including their emotional state and peer interactions. With this knowledge, the youth workers can then calibrate their interventions more strategically and only step in when their clients engage in behaviour that poses significant risks or danger. In so doing, the youth workers foster durable relational bonds with their clients that they can still leverage over time. Facebook communications also help the youth workers to bridge communication gaps with these youths. The study also examines how the youths resist the youth workers’ oversight in various ways, including engaging in sousveillance.