Social Media Can Benefit Young People

Social Media Can Benefit Young People

USA- New research from the University of East Anglia's Centre for Research on the Child and Family (CRCF) found that young people who are in care, can benefit from social media networks.  Research found they gain psychological and emotional support through their social media connections. 

Most people are under the impression that social media outlets like Intagram, Facebook and WhatsApp can be risky for this group of vulnerable children in care. 

However social media could help young people stay connected in a healthy way with their biological family and their friends, they can also make new connections that will help them in the future to become independent adults and when they are getting ready to transition into new placements.

This research was published by the British Journal of Social Work to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2018 this past February 6, 2018.  The research published was based on young people living under state care. 

Dr Simon Hammond, lead researcher who visited four resident care settings in England in a span of seven months.  That is when he conducted some reserach on ten young people who used social media as part of their everyday lives.  He also interviewed their care professionals. This collection of data was done in over one hundred visits to care centers in England.

Younger people under care often face hard transtions into adulthood, they dont have many resources like most of us would, noted Dr. Hammond.

Unreliability makes young people under care feeling alone and abandoned where they are already in a critical and vulnerable time in their life. 

Researchers who worked with these young people learned that their interactions outside of care were very important to them, they would often talk about how many followers and friends they had as part of their social media accounts.

Support System

By having access to positive social media outlets, young people can gain social benefit.  Dr. Hammond reported that by having this access gave the young people the feeling that they were not alone while under care.  This kept them connected. 

Social media outlets like Facebook can increase their self-esteem and mental state.  This helps young people under care not feel deppressed, lonely or feeling like they are not worth anything. 

Dr. Hammond said there is a feeling of stigma felt by young people under state care. They realized that social media gave them a way to look back at life the way it was before being placed under care, and being able to look back into this life, and in turn making them feel dustanced from their current situation. 

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Risks of being homeless are much higher for young people moving on from state care, however social media can help.  If you pople cound reconnect with their networks and mantain connections could give them a chance to find a home, instead of being disconnected. 

Organized support

Having access to organizations through social media gave them the opportunity to progress.  However young people were less likely to follow companies who talked about young people under care with negativity, this made them feel unwanted and vilnerable due to their status under care. 

While social media comes with many risks, these does not stop young people from using it. From the stand point of residential care staff, there is some concern about the way young people use social media. Staff looked into better ways of monitoring social media usage while still protecting the young people under state care. 

By having a tech savvy approach to social media, and avoiding elements that could harm the relationships between young people and their care takers, enables them to engage in social media and the internet in a positive manner. 

Experts say social media should be seen as important resource for functional support, any risks associated with social media change as young people under care mature and become independent adults. 

By having social workers look into the social media connections that these young adults create while under care, can have a positive impact beyond the time that young people stay under care. Looking at this from a long term perspective does not change the way the lives of young people under care turn out to be once they leave care from the state. 

This does not mean that social media is the end all be all for young people under care or that this can magically change.  However they do want to empower young people to be more engaged and stay connected.

Andy Burrows, NSPCC associate head of Child Safety Online finds that going on line gives children the space to play, learn and connect with the world. 

Social media provided a welcomed benefit for children and young people under care.  While beneficial,  there are still risks associated with social media platforms.  Media outlets need to make sure they keep their social media sites safe so that young users can enjoy safe access to the world wide web.

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