A case study exploring the impact of social media technology on students in a UK secondary school

Crawley, Christine Ann (2020). A case study exploring the impact of social media technology on students in a UK secondary school. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000116d9


In a world where digital technology evolves fast, adolescents are engaging online and finding a world of opportunities available to them. Social media technology is a phenomenon that has arisen from new media technology, allowing for ease of communication globally, whereby people can create online profiles of themselves and communicate with family, friends and followers, known or unknown. This qualitative case study used well-being as a framework to explore the impact of social media technology use on children in a mixed United Kingdom 11-16 secondary school. Perceptions of both positive and negative experiences were considered, alongside ways to safeguard the well-being of the students, who are faced with potentially harmful issues brought about by social media use. A total of 11 focus groups were conducted with N=35 students, between the ages of 11 and 15 (mean age = 13.34 years). Questionnaires were obtained from N=10 parent/carers and N=13 staff. The results are conflicting at times, with the data suggesting that use of social media can both raise and lower self-esteem. Overall, conclusions were drawn that social media technology can both improve well-being and be detrimental to it. Positive findings suggested ease of connection to family and friends, with the additional benefits of sharing knowledge and being creative. Whilst negative findings suggested that the students were: at risk of harm from people both known and unknown; developing a fear of missing out (FOMO); distracted from sleep and schoolwork and had access to mature content. This case study argues there is a current generational divide with parents/carers and staff, facing challenges in monitoring the safeguarding of adolescents. This rift has been termed by the current study as the Landline Adult v the Smartphone Child. Whilst this term raises awareness of the issue, it also suggests that guidance is needed for both the staff and the parent/carer body in the school community, as well as continued ‘esafety’ education for the students.

The current study may be potentially beneficial as a foundation for further research in terms of the wider effects of social media technology and strategies of support for students.

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