Parks managers advised to use internet to engage young people

Developing a social networking strategy could prove fundamental in engaging young people in their local parks and green spaces attendees at GreenSpace's Parks for Youth conference in Bristol.

As more young people use social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the need for parks managers to connect through the medium has increased, according to a youth expert.

Statistics show around 23 million people in the UK are using Facebook - more than five million aged 13-19 - and Twitter has 105 million users worldwide.

Online Youth Outreach director Katie Bacon explained: "There is an opportunity to engage in these spaces and listen to what young people are saying. It could be about allowing young people to express their views about their park or make suggestions for provision of services in a park."

Bacon was speaking at GreenSpace's latest conference, Parks for Youth, at Bristol's Watershed Media Centre on 20 April. GreenSpace has its own Twitter page as well as running a site for Love Parks Week, providing updates on events and activities happening around the UK.

Twitter is a website that allows users to post short updates, which can contain links to websites, images and videos, to registered "followers", who receive the information online.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets director of Mile End Park Mike Rowan set up a Facebook fan page for the green space last year. The page now has around 150 users. He said: "A lot of us are from the generation where we stuck posters around the park, but now social media is taking over."

Bacon pointed out that involving young people in creating content for the sites, such as videos, photos and events information, was key. "It needs to be fun and social," she said. "If they have to think through what you are trying to say to them, it won't work. If you are not presenting something relevant on the page, then they won't stay on it."

Bacon added that many local authorities now have their own Facebook or Twitter pages, but not specifically for their parks.

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