What are the benefits of virtually mentoring youth?
Andersen, T. S., & Wellen, H. (2023). Being a mentor in the digital era: An exploratory study of the benefits undergraduate student mentors derived from providing virtual mentoring to youth. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.23051
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Mentoring programs are affordable interventions that can reduce or prevent risky behaviors and promote positive youth outcomes.
- While many studies evaluate how mentorships impact youths, it is still unclear how it affects mentors.
- This study explored mentor-perceived benefits of participating in a virtual mentoring program for youths at-risk of failing school and becoming involved in the justice system.
- The researchers identified three conceptual themes.
- The reduction of biases and the development of cultural humility- The mentoring experience decreased or eradicated mentors’ previously held stereotypes about youths at risk of failing school and being involved with the justice system.
- Mentors continuously reflected and considered how culture and power imbalances affected their cross-cultural communication and views.
- The development of communication and leadership skills – More than two-thirds of the mentors said that their leadership and communication skills improved.
- Cultivation of civic responsibilities and a sense of empowerment to make a difference. – The mentoring experience fostered an ambition to keep making positive contributions to the community and mentoring at-risk youth. It also promoted mentors’ sense of self-efficacy.
- Mentoring programs can promote mentors’ awareness of racism, social disparities, and poverty.
- Training and match support need to focus on assisting mentors in fostering effective cross-cultural relationships with their mentees.
- Despite these findings, mentoring programs need to recruit mentors with similar backgrounds as the targeted youth populations.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
The purpose of the study was to understand mentors’ perceptions of the benefits they derived from providing virtual mentoring to youth at risk of school failure and justice system involvement in an alternative school-based mentoring program. Using data collected from 38 university student mentors, we used a qualitative case study design focused on generating highly credible descriptions of mentors’ perceptions of how they were affected by their experiences providing virtual mentoring. The three conceptual themes that emerged in our analysis were that virtual mentors described experiencing the following outcomes: (1) the reduction of biases and development of cultural humility, (2) the development of communication and leadership skills, and (3) a cultivation of civic responsibility and a sense of empowerment to make a difference. These findings suggest that providing virtual mentoring to youth may be one important tool for building competencies for undergraduate students.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
The present study contributed new knowledge about meaning mentors ascribe to their experiences providing virtual mentoring to at-risk youth, including their perceptions of the benefits they derived from their mentoring experience. Previous research has consistently documented that mentoring has the potential to foster the positive development of youth and buffer against the deleterious effects of individual-, relational-, and community-level risk factors (Dubois et al., 2002; Dubois et al., 2011; Grossman & Tierney, 1998). Yet, there is a dearth of literature focusing on the experiences of mentors. Further missing from the considerable body of mentoring literature is an exploration of the experiences and perceptions of those who mentor youth virtually. The focus of this study was to explore the experiences of e-mentors and how they perceived their lives to have been affected by their experiences providing virtual mentoring. To our knowledge, the present study is one of the first to empirically examine the experiences of virtual mentors to youth at risk of school failure and justice system contact.
To create a better understanding of the potential benefits derived from providing virtual mentoring services to youth, we used a qualitative case study approach focused on generating a highly credible description of mentor perceptions of how they were affected by their experiences providing virtual mentoring. Virtual mentors described a number of positive outcomes resulting from their virtual mentoring experiences, including the reduction of biases and development of cultural humility, interpersonal growth, and a sense of civic responsibility. These domains of influence are consistent with findings from similar research studies examining the benefits mentors derive from their face-to-face relationships with youth (Anderson & Dubois, 2022; e.g., Duron et al., 2020; Goldner & Golan, 2017; Haddock et al., 2017; Hughes et al., 2009; Lee et al., 2017; Trepanier-Street, 2007; Weiler et al., 2013; Weiler et al., 2014). Indeed, a recently published scoping review showed that qualitative explorations of how adults may be influenced by their experience mentoring youth have almost universally described positive growth or other desirable change (Anderson & Dubois, 2022).
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