Facebook and Twitter have been taking a beating in the child psychology arena for quite a while. However, researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK report that children who are placed in Foster Care can actually benefit from having access to social media.

The long-held belief has been that social media was detrimental to the children placed in government care. This new study sheds light on how the sites can help the children maintain strong relations with their families, and helps them have a smoother transition from state care to adulthood.

How the research was conducted

Dr. Simon Hammond visited four residential facilities in the UK where he met and studied the social media habits of ten children who were in state care. The seven-month long study involved on-going interviews with the children, their care providers, and focus groups.

Often, children who are placed in state care have a harder time growing up than children who remain with their families. They are often moved to different locations and have a frequent change of caregivers.

The kids also lose contact with their families and friends, giving them a feeling of isolation and abandonment. This comes at a time when they are in the vulnerable positions in society and mentally.

The subjects in the study told Dr. Hammond that their social media contacts were extremely important to them. The communications they had with their people provided them with a strong support network.

What the children gained from social media

The children reported that regular contact with people on social media provided them:

  • With a network of people who provided support. These are people outside their normal caregivers, so the children felt a closer contact with the “outside” world.
  • Sites like Facebook and Twitter helped the children with their self-esteem.
  • The sites help the children remember the times before they were in care, and allows them to distance themselves from their institutional upbringing.

Facebook can help prevent homelessness

Many of the children have a difficult time transitioning to adulthood.

They are at a greater risk of becoming homeless after they are released from state care.

The social media sites allow the children to maintain contact with people who can help them become adults and provide them with resources for shelter and food. The sites also help the children locate and use service organizations that can help them in finding a place to live and employment.

Dr. Hammond’s research will be published in the January 2018 issue of British Journal of Social Work.