Authors: Simon Hammond, Neil Cooper, Peter Jordan
Social media applications are used daily by billions to communicate. Adolescents living in state care are no different, yet the potential implications of their social media use are. Despite the global use of social media and evidence highlighting their role in social capital cultivation, how adolescents living in state care make use of social media remains unknown, with discussions tending to focus exclusively on risk. Using data from a four-year Digital Life Story Work (DLSW) research programme, this paper explores adolescents’ and social care professionals’ (n=45) perspectives on the everyday use of social media by adolescents living in state care. Using an ethnographic multi-method approach, extracts of conversations from the four English residential homes engaged in the DLSW programme were thematically analysed. Three major themes emerged; contacts as currency, promoting and protecting the self and transitions. Analysis illustrates how adolescents living in state care use social media as active digital agents and the need to reframe this usage to enable benefits to be enacted. The paper concludes that urgent research is needed to enable practitioners and policy makers to show a deeper appreciation of the potentials of social media, enabling a more balanced approach to succeed in practice.