In this blog, Ryan McKay from the Citadel Youth Centre in Leith, Edinburgh, alongside three fantastic young people (Amber, Jackie and Joshua) from the Youth Spark youth-led participation project, share their experiences at this year’s Youthlink Digital Youth Work Conference in Glasgow.

 Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when you least expect it.  Case in point: our late arrival at the YouthLink Digital Youth Work Conference 2024, courtesy of a broken-down minibus (more on that later).  Representing the Citadel, we fully immersed ourselves in all things digital youth work.  Set against the backdrop of Safer Internet Day 2024, the conference presentations delved into AI integration in Youth Work, online safety intricacies, and the evolving role of employability and digital skills in youth work.

‘Hearing about AI in Youth Work made me think about AI in my own life.’

(Joshua, 17 – Youth Spark Young Person)

Rapid Games Design Workshop

After the presentations, we eagerly attended our first workshop in Rapid Games Design, led by Abertay University Lecturer in Games Production, Dr Andrew Reid, and Rachel Piper from BRAG Enterprises.

During the workshop, our young participants turned adversity into creativity, drawing inspiration from our minibus breakdown to craft their game, ‘Sugar Puff Minibus.’  Using a mix of traditional tools and hands-on elements, they blended their fascination with horror games, love of puzzles and board games, and fondness for sweets into a captivating idea.  This taught us a crucial lesson in digital youth work: activities don’t always need tech.  In the early stages of games design, hands-on methods excel.

‘Youth work and trying out digital youth work activities is different to school, there is no limit to the ideas and what you can say.’

(Amber, 15 – Youth Spark Young Person)

As members of other groups tested out Sugar Puff Minibus and provided valuable feedback, the workshop further emphasised the importance of soft skills in digital youth work – a theme that would persist throughout the day.

Sketch of the minibus game

Film Making with GMAC

After the afternoon presentations, we transitioned into our final workshop on Film Making, led by Anthony Chalmers and Jeanie Hamilton from GMAC Film.  The workshop brought together both youth workers and young people, with GMAC initially guiding us through understanding scenes in films.  Their youth work approach demystified filmmaking, making it accessible for all.  The interactive session taught us to create basic films using only our mobile phones and free video editing apps, thus enhancing our digital literacy skills.  Through hands-on activity and expert guidance, we honed practical skills, crafting a dynamic sword fighting scene (complete with sound effects!).

‘I had no idea it was so easy to make a film with just a phone’.

(Jackie, 16 – Youth Spark Young Person)


Reflecting on our day, we’ve gained invaluable insights into the importance of hands-on creative experiences and soft skills development in digital youth work.  As Youth Workers, we’re committed to exploring how digital youth work can best support our young people.  And as for next year’s conference, we’ll be sure to book the train tickets in advance!

To stay updated on Ryan’s work and reflections, follow him on LinkedIn.