To coincide to with International Youth Day this Sunday 12 August, we hear from Billy Blue student, Melanie Tran. As a disruptor, an advocate, and social entrepreneur, Mel is on a mission to create a safer digital space for young Australians.
When it comes to young people and technology, some of the things that make the headlines include “Young people addicted to technology”, “Screen junkies”, “Is technology destroying the younger generations?”.
As a young person myself, I can’t say that I am not addicted to technology. In fact, I spend more than ten hours each day in front of a screen. But I don’t use it to play games. I don’t use it to watch movies. I don’t use it to communicate with the person next to me.
I use technology to transform the way young Australians living with disability build relationships online and form a strong support system that would enable them to achieve their goals.
Digital spaces help youth interact virtually, with anyone, anywhere in the world. There are a lot of negative stories about youth developing unhealthy habits through technology and building relationships online. I’d like to emphasise how I am using technology to transform the way young people build successful relationships safely online and how that can translate into the physical space.
Technology can be a powerful tool. As a child growing up surrounded by digital devices, I’ve always wondered how I can bring a positive impact into people’s lives by leveraging technology. While it is amazing to have the ability to know what is happening around the world and complete some of the everyday tasks within a touch on the screen, I want to do more with technology. I wonder what would happen when technology is pushed to its boundary. More importantly, what would happen when innovation meets technology?
As a young person studying User Experience (UX) Design at Torrens University Australia, I am fortunate to put everything I’ve learnt into practice at a social enterprise, Hireup – an online platform that allows Australians with disability to find, hire and manage their own support workers. This would allow people with disability to be supported with everyday tasks within their home and in the community. Since the launch in 2015, the platform helped form over 10,800 successful relationships between people with disability and support workers across the nation. This means over 10,800 Australians with disability have the opportunity to do what they love each day because they are supported by people who can work alongside them to achieve a common goal.
To me, that itself is enough to redefine how young people can harness technology to form successful life-changing relationships in a safe environment.
As a UX designer, my role is to use the power of technology to help young Australians build successful relationships. Essentially, the aim is to redefine how digital spaces can help form life-changing relationships. I would use examples of my work as a UX Designer at Hireup, as one such example of this.
I see technology as a bridge that can bring together the connections formed in the digital space and translate that seamlessly into the physical space to further strengthen these life-changing relationships.
“There are a lot of negative stories about youth developing unhealthy habits through technology and building relationships online. I’d like to emphasise how I’m using technology to transform the way young people build successful relationships safely online and how that can translate into the physical space.”
I often get told that I am “lucky” to be exposed to the industry and get hands-on experience whilst studying. But I don’t see it as luck. Simply because when the academic world focuses on industry immersion, it enables me, as a student, to be at the forefront of innovation and develop the ability to become a changemaker. I’ve been taught to see things from a different perspective. I’ve been trained to be a forward thinker. I’ve been armed with essential skills and knowledge that would allow me to thrive in my career.
As the UN says: “As more and more youth grow in a technologically connected world, they aspire to engage deeper in political, civic and social matters, and the availability and accessibility of safe spaces becomes even more crucial to make this a reality.” I would like to highlight how youth, like myself, are engaging with and contributing to deeply important social matters, with technology – as it can not only be harnessed to positively impact the lives of young people, but also challenge the perception of youth and technology.