The Young Mentors initiative, which has been developed by the eSafety Commissioner, sees secondary school-aged young Australians teaching those aged 50-plus about digital skills in one-on-one sessions.

What is the Young Mentors initiative?

Community organisations will partner with secondary schools to coordinate the one-hour mentoring sessions, to be delivered weekly over six weeks. The sessions are then individually tailored to the needs of the older learner.

The federal government has invited schools, libraries, councils, aged residential care facilities and other community groups to get involved with the intergenerational program with 130 organisations across Australia so far taking up the challenge. 

Half of the organisations that have registered are schools, followed by aged care/retirement villages, libraries and community centres. 

The benefits

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, said that for older Australians, the mentoring program helps to build confidence in using technology, deliver a greater sense of independence, provide more access to services and reduce feelings of loneliness.

For the young mentors it allows them to develop valuable teaching, communication and leadership skills while also making a positive social contribution, Rowland said.

“The Young Mentors program helps bridge the digital divide by connecting two groups that were particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic - older Australians and young people.

“By pairing older Australians with teenagers to build their digital skills and confidence, the program encourages genuine connection between generations while making the online world a safer place we can all enjoy.”

All about 'Be Connected'

The scheme is part of the government’s Be Connected program, designed to empower older Australians to access digital technology and online services.

Launched in 2017, the Be Connected initiative includes a dedicated website with information, interactive tools and resources, and free access to personalised support and mentoring.

It aims to teach older Australians the basics of technology, such as using a digital device, being safe online, sending emails, using social media, shopping online, using myGov and sharing photos with friends and families.

The Be Connected website offers hundreds of free resources – including self-paced courses, online presentations, articles, podcasts, and even a games and skills practice area – to help older Australians and those who support them to keep their online skills sharp and increase their confidence using the internet and digital devices.

The impact

An analysis of the digital inclusion program by Swinburne University in 2021 found that Be Connected has had a “significant impact” on building the digital skills, confidence and online safety practices of older Australians.

It found that $4.01 is created in social value for every $1 invested. The evaluation concluded that Be Connected represents an appropriate, effective, and efficient investment in the digital inclusion of older Australians. 

The program now has a network of more than 3,000 partners and 9,800 digital mentors delivering training to more than 580,000 learners