Digital Youth Work in Flanders: practices, challenges, and the impact of COVID-19


  • Lotte Vermiere imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Wendy Van den Broeck imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Leo Van Audenhove imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Ilse Mariën imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel



digital youth work, Flanders, COVID-19, digitalization, challenges and opportunities


The pandemic had a considerable impact on youth work in Flanders, as many face-to-face activities had to shift online out of necessity. For many youth organizations, this was their first encounter with digital youth work, either online or in a blended format. Despite this recent boom in digital youth work practices, the concept is not new. It was first mentioned in the 2017 conclusions on smart youth work[1] by the Council of the European Union. Digital youth work is defined as using and discussing digital media/technology in different types of youth work situations, whilst still adhering to the goals, values, and principles of general youth work (Council of the European Union, 2019). While some Flemish youth work organizations focused specifically on digital media before COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated the uptake of digital youth work. This paper examines the effects of COVID-19 on youth work in Flanders. It explores the challenges and opportunities, using the quick-scan-method to map relevant organizations.


[1] “[I]mplementing smart youth work enables young people and youth workers to, based on existing experiences and seeking new connections and means, create innovative solutions (including digital solutions) for coping with both current problems and new challenges. Smart youth work activities are based on the needs of young people and youth workers, and take into account developments in society and technology, including globalisation, networking and e-solutions” (Schlümmer, 2018).

Author Biographies

Lotte Vermiere, imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Lotte Vermeire has been working at imec-SMIT, a research center at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel since 2020. Her research focuses on data and digital literacy, digital inclusion, and media education.

Wendy Van den Broeck, imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Prof. dr. Wendy Van den Broeck has been associated with imec-SMIT, VUB since 2003. Her research expertise mainly relates to innovative research methods and user research into new media, personalized media, and digital practices.

Leo Van Audenhove, imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Prof. dr. Leo Van Audenhove is head of department at the Department of Communication Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is a researcher at imec-SMIT, VUB and a professor at the University of the Western Cape. He is also director of the Knowledge Centre for Media Literacy in Flanders.

Ilse Mariën, imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Prof. dr. Ilse Mariën has been working at imec-SMIT, VUB since 2007. Her research focuses on digital exclusion and inclusion, digital skills, and the social impact of digitization.



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How to Cite

Vermiere, L., Van den Broeck, W., Van Audenhove, L., & Mariën, I. (2022). Digital Youth Work in Flanders: practices, challenges, and the impact of COVID-19. Seminar.Net, 18(1).