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Teenagers asked to plan their face-to-face space

ST 04.12.11 generic social media

ST 04.12.11 generic social media

THEY ARE switched on and plugged in but children of the digital age feel increasingly disconnected from the real world.

Alarmed by research that reveals high rates of social disconnection among generation Y, Warringah Council is asking its youth to become urban planners and create spaces where they can socialise offline.

The findings from a survey by the northern beaches council of 1000 young residents found high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and isolation from their community.

The study of people aged 12 to 24 contained in the council's youth strategy released last week found 66 per cent felt anxious, stressed and depressed on a regular basis and felt disconnected from their peers and community.

Councillor Vanessa Moskal, 21, said members of her generation had grown up with social media but their real-world relationships might be suffering as a result. ''We have great opportunities to spend time with friends online but I think that's partly been at the expense of face-to-face time,'' she said. ''A lot of the young people in our survey commented on that sense of disconnect.''

The issue is not unique to Sydney's northern beaches; Black Dog Institute researcher Bridianne O'Dea says it affects the wider youth population.

''Facebook use does not lead to emotionally closer relationships offline or increased social support among its users,'' she said.

Real-world interaction was particularly important during adolescence.

''During adolescence, learning to interact with peers, forming and maintaining friendships and establishing a sense of identity are key developmental milestones of this age - which are not able to be fully developed in an online context,'' she said.

To combat the social disconnect, Warringah Council is asking young people to help plan public places where they can socialise in person rather than on screen.

''Having youth involved in the design of public space makes sense,'' Cr Moskal said. ''They come up with something they actually want and they take ownership of the space.''

Plans for a new Police Citizens Youth Club in Dee Why are under way with potential uses including roller derby, skating and a blue light disco.

Northern beaches teenagers Kate Jackson, Isabelle Edwards, Imogen D'Souza and Darcy Munce said they would love to be involved with creating dedicated spaces for young people.

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