Innovations in Social Work Research and Practice with Youth: The Power of Social Media and Technology

Friday, January 16, 2015: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
La Galeries 6, Second Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:
Desmond U. Patton, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Katie Richards-Schuster, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 98% of all youth ages 12-17 are now online. As of 2012, 78% of those youth have cell phones and half of them own smartphones. Social media, in particular, plays a dominant role in the everyday life of today’s youth, with 81% of online youth using some type of social media; the most popular of which are Facebook and Twitter. Youth engage in myriad activities on social media, including posting pictures and videos, describing their school and city, and sharing their real name, birth date, and relationship status to the Internet audience. Youth are also downloading apps (Pew Research Internet Project, 2013).

With technological advances in social media and technology as agents for social change, it is essential for  the field of social work  to consider the implications, intersections and impacts of social media and technology practice, especially with youth  (Johnston-Goodstar, et al,). Yet, to date, the role of social media and technology has been underutilized and understudied in social work research and practice hold great promise in interventions related to health, substance use, violence intervention and youth participatory research. There has been too little research about the ways in which social media and technology will shape social work research, practice, and education in the future. Overall, in order to advance the field of social work, researchers and practitioners must become aware of the networked lives of youth and the implications of social media behavior and technology patterns across youth in diverse settings (LaMendola, 2010).

 This panel will explore the power of social media and technology in social work research and practice with a diverse youth, defined as ages 12-24, sample with particular attention to the ways social media and technology impact research and interventions.   As the focus is to examine innovations and new approaches for research and practice, we purposively sought a group of papers that could showcase the rich diversity of examples for discussion.

Papers reflect different foci for the use of technology and social media. The first paper explores a participatory community-based process to engage youth in the development of an intervention utilizing a HIV prevention health app in an urban community. The second paper discusses a multi-level research project that used a large-scale survey of teen’s social media usage to develop a youth-led intervention to use social media to combat dating violence in a large scale suburban high school.  The third paper presents findings on how practitioners and service providers can use social media in developing youth interventions. Finally, the fourth paper delves into the use of Twitter to both understand and disrupt gang behavior in a major metropolitan area.

 In conclusion, social media and technology holds great promise and potential for developing and adapting empirical methodologies, improving and expanding modes of practice and advancing and creating new theory in social work research and practice with youth across social settings.

* noted as presenting author
Social Work Professionals Use of Social Media with Youth in Care
Dale Fitch, PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia
Developing a Primary Care HIV Preventive Intervention App: Grounded in the Voices of Adolescents
David Cordova, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Jose Bauermeister, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Jorge Delva, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Gang Violence, Crime, and Substance Use on Twitter: A Snapshot of Gang Communications in Detroit
Desmond U. Patton, PhD, MSW, Columbia University; Lyle Dungy, BA, Detroit Crime Commission; Jun Sung Hong, PhD, Wayne State University
Safe on-Line and Off-Line Spaces”: Teens Using Digital Media to Prevent Dating Violence and Sexual Assault in Their Community
Lauren A. Reed, LLMSW, MS, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Richard Tolman, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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