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Despite the warnings over social media usage, new research has suggested that young people in care benefit from the support gained via social media networks.
Ahead of Safer Internet Day 2018, the University of East Anglia’s Centre for Research on the Child and Family (CRCF) has said that social media can help young people living in state care maintain healthy and appropriate birth family relationships and friendships, make new connections and ease transitions between placements and into adult independence.
As well as the psychological and emotional benefits, the researchers argue that having positive online networks helped young people in care gain ‘social capital’, acting as a bridge beyond the immediate care-home environment. Platforms such as Facebook can contribute to increased self-esteem and mental well-being, which is particularly helpful for young people in care who frequently report feeling worthless, depressed and isolated.
Dr Simon Hammond, lead researcher, said: “Young people in care face harder, faster and steeper transitions into adulthood with fewer resources than their peers. Placement instability often leads to young people feeling abandoned and isolated at points in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. The young people we worked with talked about how many friends or followers they had on social media. And it was the contacts outside their immediate state care environment that young people saw as their most precious commodity.”