Social media has become firmly rooted within the lives of young people and is now one of the core barometers of their sense of self-worth. Here we have five custom topics that examine various differing issues surrounding young people’s interaction with social networking.
1) The interconnected social lives of social-media-savvy teens
Social media has never been so diverse in its offer to young people – there is now a greater variety of platforms open to young people than ever before. What functions do these differing platforms play in the social lives of teens, and do different platforms serve different social functions?
Reference: Boyd, D., 2014. It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.
2) Online ‘thinspiration’ and ‘pro-ana’ groups – social media and mental illness
Social networking – especially visual platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat – can significantly influence young people’s sense of body image and body dissatisfaction. Online groups which use ‘thinspiration’ to encourage the use of extreme dieting behaviours have been linked to increased severity of eating disorders. Pro-anorexia groups also encourage those already suffering from an eating disorder to not seek help and to actively become more ill. How and why are these groups accessed and how do members interact with each other in them?
Reference: Homewood, J. and Melkonian, M., 2015. ‘What factors account for internalisation of the content of pro-ana websites’. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 86(9), pp.e3-e3.
3) 5 more minutes…is social media addictive and what are the effects of this?
Young people turn to, and become strongly invested in any platform that enables them to link with peers and fit in with their sub-group. It is widely accepted that social networking can be an arena in which young people are compulsively checking in on, and interacting with. At what stage does this compulsion become addiction, how does this addiction manifest itself and what are the effects?
Reference: Hawi, N.S. and Samaha, M., 2016. ‘The relations among social media addiction, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in university students’. Social Science Computer Review, p.0894439316660340.
4) What does young people’s use of social media tell us about their politics?
Increasingly political parties are becoming more aware of the importance of engaging young adults (18+) with their policies through social networking. In the UK 2017 general election, for example, the mobilisation of the youth vote via social media channels was attributed to the surprise result. How, then, do young people engage in politics through the channels of social media and what effect does this engagement have on voting behaviours?
Reference: Loader, B.D., Vromen, A. and Xenos, M.A., 2014. The networked young citizen: social media, political participation and civic engagement. Routledge.
5) Building resilience in young people – the surprising protective role of social media
Despite the plethora of negative attention paid to the dangers of young people’s use of social media, there is a view that moderate use of social networking can help build resilience and wellbeing in young people. However – what does ‘moderate use’ constitute, and how is this achieved? Moreover, are their certain populations of young people – those with mental health problems, LGBT individuals, for example – who are more likely to benefit from moderate social networking use?
Reference: Chong, E.S., Zhang, Y., Mak, W.W. and Pang, I.H., 2015. ‘Social Media as Social Capital of LGB Individuals in Hong Kong: Its Relations with Group Membership, Stigma, and Mental Well‐Being’. American journal of community psychology, 55(1-2), pp.228-238.
6) Connective journalism: how social media can cause problems.
Connective journalism is concerned with how problems arise through social networking where young people learn of different opinions to their own immediate experiences. The news arises increasingly from interactions on social media and networking rather than being produced and edited by a team of professionals. Can this process cause problems?
Reference: Clark, L. S., and Marchi, R., 2017. Young People and the Future of News: Social Media and the Rise of Connective Journalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7) Is the student/teacher relationship changing due to social media?
The question as to whether it is appropriate for teachers to communicate through social media with their students and if so, what are the boundaries are questions that arise during this investigation of social media. Who and how are these interactions monitored by and are there any feedback systems for either the teachers or the students?
Reference: Miller, D., Costa, E., Haynes, N., McDonald, T., Nicolescu, R., Sinanan, J., Spyer, J., Venkatraman, S., and Wang, X., 2016. How the World Changed Social Media. London: UCL Press.
8) How citizenship education can positively embrace social media.
This topic involves an exploration of national identity and roots, through social networking, with regards to citizenship education and young people. Such areas as individuals in poorer countries possibly being disadvantaged by the lack of access to social media technology could be considered, along with an examination of citizenship education itself.
Reference: Elinor L., Brown,Anna Krasteva, and Maria Ranieri, (eds). 2016. ELearning and Social Media: Education and Citizenship for the Digital 21st Century. Charlotte, N.C: Information Age Publishing.
9) Collaborative learning through social media connections.
This topic investigates the ways in which social media could be examined so as to understand the growth of collaborative learning and cultures within a community. It acknowledges the constant information seeking from learners together with the possibility of sharing information and that they should be considered more as possible co-producers of content rather than simply consumers.
Reference: Sharratt, L., and Planche, B., 2016. Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence. Corwin: Thousand Oaks, California.
10) Youth education and social media’s conveyance of true stories.
The effects of social media as an educational tool to convey real life stories and events to young people needs to be carefully examined, in that there are both advantages and disadvantages in the actions of social media. What is truth? What is a true story? Who decides it is true and is it helpful? Are all questions that could arise from studying this topic.
Reference: Pickard, V., and Yang, G., (eds)., 2017. Media Activism in the Digital Age. London: Routledge.
11) Young people and social media-Are young people shunning the mainstream media?
The rise of social media has completely transformed the way that people get their news. Social networking creates a more fluid concept of information and a horizontal distribution of knowledge about the world. Are young people are shunning the mainstream media, preferring instead to get the news about the world from social networking? How is this phenomenon impacting on the lives of young people?
Reference: Humphreys, A. (2016) Social Media-Enduring Principles, Oxford University Press, Oxford
12) Does the spread of “fake news” affect usage of social media by young people?
In recent times, social networking has been blamed for the spread of “fake news.” Social networking enables people to say what they want. This means that there is a lot of information that circulates on the social networking that cannot possibly be verified. Has the use of social networking by young people been affected by the spread of “fake news”? Is this a phenomenon that worries young people?
Reference: Brake, D. (2016) Sharing our Lives Online: Risks and Exposure in Social Media, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke and New York
13) Has social media become a learning tool for young people in the Western world?
Social scientists argue that social networking has the potential to become a valuable learning tool. What is the rate of adoption of this methodology amongst young people? Have young people have adopted social networking as a learning tool? Has adoption of social networking become a learning tool that enhances the learning experience for young people?
Reference: Wu, T. (2011) The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Vintage, London
14) Is social media responsible for the rise in mental illness amongst young people?
In recent times, there has been a significant increase in mental illness amongst young people, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Is there an established a link between the rise in mental illness amongst young people and the increased use of social networking? In which way is the increased use of social networking impacting on the mental health of young people?
Reference: O’Reilly, T. (2017) WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us, Harper Business, London
15) Has social media been a factor for a renewed interest in politics amongst young people?
The recent elections that took place in the United States and Western Europe show the importance of social networking as an instrument for political debate. However, is social networking a medium for polarisation in the political realm? How is this phenomenon affecting young people? Has social networking become an instrument for the renewed interest in politics amongst young people, as seen in the wave of support for progressive movements across Western Europe and North America?
Reference: Greenfield, A. (2017) Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, Verso, London