Abstract: Exploring the Impact of Media Engagement on LGBTQ Youth: Development of the Social Media Wellbeing Scale (SMWS) (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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611P Exploring the Impact of Media Engagement on LGBTQ Youth: Development of the Social Media Wellbeing Scale (SMWS)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Craig Shelley, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Andrew Eaton, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Lauren McInroy, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, OH
Vivian W. Y. Leung, MA, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Sreedevi Krishnan, Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose: Social media sites offer critical opportunities for Sexual and Gender Minority Youth (SGMY) to explore their identities, access resources, and connect with peers. Yet current measures of youth social media use focus on the detrimental impacts of participation—including overuse, cyberbullying, and other negative health and mental health outcomes. Given the opportunities that social media can facilitate for marginalized communities, this study explored the social media use of SGMY and developed a Social Media Wellbeing Scale (SMWS) that assesses the positive social impacts of these platforms in their daily lives.

Methods: The scale was developed through an online survey of a diverse sample of SGMY (ages 14-29; n=6,178). Participants chose their five most used sites (out of 25), then indicated whether they derived any of 17 benefits from each site (i.e., feel loved, feel stronger, help others, deal with life, share story, self-reflect, feel connected, bored, entertained, figure out where I fit, when waiting, gain information, answer question, help plan, learn, LGBTQ+ resources, follow LGBTQ+ celebrities/groups). Options for social media sites and benefits were developed from the literature, in-depth interviews with SGMY on their social media usage, and consultation with an advisory board of youth and researchers.

An Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was conducted to understand the scale’s factor structure. Using unweighted least squares extraction method, the extraction of factors stopped when eigenvalue <1; oblique rotation was used. Factor scores were produced through the EFA, and were subsequently used for analysis of age group differences. ANOVA and Sheffe post-hoc tests were conducted to examine whether SGMY of varying age groups used ICTs for different purposes.

Results: Based on the eigenvalue, a four-factor solution emerged, which explained 50.42% of the common variances. All factor loadings were .40 or above. The factors measure participants’ use of ICTs for: (1) emotional support and development; (2) information and learning; (3) entertainment; and (4) acquiring LGBTQ+ specific information. Bartlett’s Test of sphericity was significant (χ2=40828, p<.0005) and the scale had an alpha of 0.889. There were age group differences for all four factors (F=3.79 to 75.88, p<.05). In general, younger youth were more likely to use ICTs for emotional support, entertainment, and access to LGBTQ+ information; use decreased as age increased.

Conclusions and Implications: This study presents the SMWS, developed using social work science to facilitate a more strengths-focused outlook of SGMY ICT use, which can be integrated into programs designed to support SGMY resilience. With a large and diverse sample, the four key factors of social media for SGMY provide a more nuanced understanding of the role of technology on the mental health of SGMY. The promising EFA results could be attributed to the combination of inductive (i.e., literature review) and deductive (i.e., interviews, advisory board) strategies used in scale development. Given that this research has led to uptake of the SMWS in research and practice with SGMY, research adaptations, implications and applications for social change will be discussed.