Social media, social capital and adolescents living in state care: A multi-perspective and multimethod qualitative study

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Social media 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 professional’s (n=45) perspectives on the everyday use of social media by adolescents living in state care. Using an ethnographic multimethod 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 illustrate 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2058–2076
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Early online date2 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Social media
  • social capital
  • adolescents living in state care
  • internet
  • residential care

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