On children’s perceptions of the risks and benefits of social media, with Beatrice Hayes

January 17, 2022 SalvesenResearch Season 3 Episode 2
On children’s perceptions of the risks and benefits of social media, with Beatrice Hayes
Show Notes Transcript

Beatrice is a social developmental psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London who specialises in children and adolescents' use of online digital technologies as well as students' use of online learning tools. During this podcast, they chat to Louisa about their recently published paper looking at primary school children's perceptions of the risks and benefits of social media use and to what extent their parents and teachers may mediate these perceptions.

You can find out more about Beatrice's research here.

You can also find Beatrice on Twitter @drbeatricehayes and on LinkedIn


The paper discussed in this podcast is
Hayes, B., James, A., Barn, R., & Watling, D. (2021). "The world we live in now": A qualitative investigation into parents', teachers', and children's perceptions of social networking site use. The British journal of educational psychology. Advance online publication.

Louisa 00:09
Hi, everyone. I'm Louisa. I'm an autistic academic at the University of Reading and I'm your podcast host for season three of psychological. As you might already know, if you've listened to the previous two seasons with Sue, PsychologiCALL is a podcast that started during lockdown, and it aims to make an evidence based contribution to conversations about child and adolescent well being, development and learning and neurodiversity.

Today's PsychologiCALL is with Dr. Beatrice Hayes, who is a postdoctoral teaching associate at Royal Holloway, University of London. I'm a little biased, but I would say that your most exciting role to date was sitting next to me in the office during our PhDs.

Beatrice 00:52
I could not agree more. Not only that, but also actually putting together a system so that our two desks turned into one continuous desk complete with decorations bunting and plants.

Louisa 01:03
It did. Yeah, that was that was the best part. Definitely.

Beatrice 01:07
Absolutely. We spent a long time took me,. We're together for like three years. And we took every minute of those three years to perfect our desk situation.

Louisa 01:19
It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

So Beatrice is with me today on the phone to talk about one of her recent papers that came out of her PhD work. And the paper is called: "The world we live in now: A qualitative investigation into parents', teachers' and children's perceptions of social networking site use."

So good morning, Beatrice.

Beatrice 01:39

Louisa 01:40
Hello. We're recording this on a Friday morning. But to the listeners, I hope you're having a good day. whatever time of day, it is. So Bea. How are you doing today?

Beatrice 01:49
I am good. I've had a coffee from my lovely new cafeteria. And I've had an espresso. So I am pumped. And I'm ready for this podcast.

Louisa 01:59
Absolutely fantastic. Brilliant. I'm on. I'm on tea today, which is also very lovely.

So the first thing we're going to ask you about the paper today, kind of starting a little bit at the end. But we're going to start off with what you found. So could you tell me what you discovered in this piece of research?

Beatrice 02:17
Yeah, absolutely. So a few things. So firstly, and I think this is really important to highlight, although social networking sites and when I say that, I'm talking about Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, all of those kinds of things. Although the age restriction is technically age 13, and above, younger children are accessing them. And it's very easy to access these sites. So in particular, I looked at children within primary school, so particularly ages seven to 12. So primary school and like the first year of secondary school. So firstly, within my findings, children are using these sites. But also within my findings, I found that parents and teachers, the way that they perceive the risks and benefits of these sites, very much shapes how children, then perceive things, risks and benefits and how that shapes their behaviour. So most importantly, and I would say, like, the main finding was that parents and teachers are particularly concerned about stranger danger. And they are very vocal about this. And so, understandably, children are also very vocal about this. And they're very vocal about how they manage their online behaviour to mitigate these risks, which is great. However, other risks, which arguably are more likely, such as falling out with friends, or presenting a side to the self, that maybe doesn't quite match the real self, all of these other kind of, sort of grey areas in terms of the risks of social networking sites, children aren't so knowledgeable about. And also, although parents and teachers talk a lot about the benefits about the social benefits, keeping in touch with friends and family. Children are also achieving these benefits, children are also experiencing this. But again, they're less vocal about it because they're told so much about the stranger danger. So my main kind of point at the end was yes, children should be educated about stranger danger, of course, however, we need to shift our education a little bit away from that, because actually, there are lots of benefits for children using the sites, and there are risks, but the risks that they're more likely to experience they need to know more about. Yeah, so that was kind of overall what my findings sort of suggested.

Louisa 04:49
Well, that's very interesting. I remember the sort of Stranger danger from when I was a child and that like social media sites didn't exist then they've just sort of recycled the same thing and applied it to social media sites as well.

Beatrice 05:04
Absolutely? That's exactly it.

Louisa 05:05
Yeah, without kind of considering what other risks are there and just sort of carried it across. So it's really interesting that you've kind of delved a little bit more into what the other risks were as well. super interesting. So what actually motivated you to conduct the study? I think we've kind of slightly covered it a little bit already, maybe that we weren't aware of those risks. But was there anything else? Maybe that motivated you to conduct your study?

Beatrice 05:26
Yeah, no, absolutely. So before I started my PhD, I was actually a primary school teacher. And whilst being a primary school teacher, I was aware that children in my class, were using social media, and there'd be times when they came into class, and they'd be upset because they'd had an argument their friend, or they'd posted something and their best friend hadn't liked it, and therefore could never be trusted. Again, understandable, no kidding. But I couldn't agree more. No. And a bit like, there are these kinds of issues that are arising and when I was sort of looking for how I should deal with this, or trying to find some advice, it was quite, it was either quite vague or far more towards the stranger danger kind of angle. And, and, you know, anyway, I started my PhD and blah, blah. So whilst I was doing my PhD, I thought, well, you know, what, it'd be really interesting to actually understand how children actually perceive the risks and benefits and how that impacts their behaviour. And, of course, especially children of primary school age, they're very informed by their parents and their teachers. Those are the most pivotal, influential adults in their life. It's different with teenagers, because, for example, in secondary school, teenagers have lots of different teachers, whereas in primary school, children have the same teacher for the entire year. So their teacher is very, very impactful in their lives, of course, so are their parents. And so I thought, Well, it'd be really interesting to understand how children perceive these risks and benefits, and how parents and teachers might shape that. So then, as adults moving forward, we can actually understand how we might need to readdress our safety education. And so that yeah, that was kind of the overall motivation for why I decided to do this particular study.

Louisa 07:24
Yeah, some awesome reasons that sounds really interesting piece of research. I'm really interested to find out a little bit more about what you did. So next question, How did you do it?

Beatrice 07:37
So I conducted a qualitative study. So I really wanted to get more context and kind of access those kind of underlying reasons and mechanisms, and how that kind of related between parents, teachers and children, so I conducted one-to-one, semi-structured interviews, typically, they lasted sort of between half an hour to 45 minutes, sort of in general. And I conducted the interviews, and then following that, I used a thematic analysis to actually analyse and look for those themes. And it was really beneficial using this particular methodology, because it gave me the opportunity to really kind of triangulate my findings, and really see how parents, teachers, children, like how they all kind of influenced each other. And it just gave me so much more context around the thoughts, the experiences around social media. And so So I conducted that and I, what I actually did to ensure that I could triangulate appropriately, is for all the children that I interviewed. I interviewed one of their parents and a teacher. So I knew that all of my themes were related, if you know what I mean, because whatever that teacher said, I knew was related to whatever that child would say, etc, etc. And so yeah, that's how I went about it.

Louisa 09:07
So did that take a... I'm assuming you're sort of going through all of that data. So how many participants did you actually have in the end?

Beatrice 09:15
So I had a lot.

Louisa 09:17
That's a lot of data if they're all half an hour.

Yeah. Long. Yes, I had 45 participants. And I actually conducted the interviews in a fairly short time considering so the kind of approach that I took was, I conducted these interviews within the school setting. So I'd go into the school. And I would basically have all my participants in one place because off side I'd interview teachers and children within the school day, and then parents would then come to pick up their child and I would interview them at the end of the day. So I actually managed to squeeze in quite a lot of interviews within like a couple of months because I just like I basically organised it so that I have the best times within the school day rather than drive into people's houses or trying to like get people to come to me at the university or whatever, just by going to the school, I could kind of get everyone in at once, if you know what I mean, say, at the actual interviews themselves, were probably the shortest part of the whole thing because I actually managed to get them all in like fairly quickly. And the transcribing took a while. It took some time.

Louisa 10:33
Did you do that yourself by hand, then go through? And yeah, okay.

Beatrice 10:36
I did. You can, you can get other people, yes, software, and you can pay others to do it. But I felt like this because I was, again, because certain parents, teachers and children knew each other, I had taken notes of like, who knew who. So when it came to doing my transcribing, I was able to like, jot down a few notes to be like, okay, they're talking about this parent, or they're talking about this child. And like, for me, I just felt I really wanted to be familiar with my data. And so although it did take a while, it is, it's more ideal to transcribe it yourself. Because you really know or if there's like a little bit of a funny, like a fuzziness in the recording, you'll be able to remember what was actually said, or your, you know, little things like that. So, it did take a while. But I when it came to the actual coding, I use NVivo for that, which is such a useful software. So that wasn't too bad at all. They didn't take too long. So it does take a long time. Qualitative does, of course, we all know, famously does take a long time. But because of the depth of data that you get from it, and the in the amount of context that you get, is it is worth it. Yeah.

Louisa 11:54
Yeah. And then I guess, arguably, so more kind of quantitative measures, people that do kind of things like MRI and stuff, the analysis is very heavy, sometimes for that as well. So sometimes, these do take a long time. It's just a very different kind of analysis. So you did do you did a thematic analysis the to...

Beatrice 12:14
I did, yeah.

Louisa 12:15
... get themes from your data? Yeah. Sounds great. And then...

Beatrice 12:19
 Loved it.

Louisa 12:20
We've kind of gone over the themes already that you identified, like, what different risks and things there were. So we've got a lot about that analysis and everything already, which is great. So for our kind of takeaway, so I was going to ask what you think we can learn from this study, but kind of we've already covered that, I guess, to an extent, saying that we could learn about what the other risks and benefits are. How do you think maybe the things that we've learned from this study could be applied in the future?

Beatrice 12:51
I think it's such an important question. And particularly with my sort of research, I'm doing this research because it does need to be applied. You know, it's really important. And I think, first of all, it's acknowledging that younger children are using social media, and that it's not a terrible bad thing. That's something I really want to get across is that children using social media doesn't mean that their development is going to be destroyed, and that they are going to grow up as these low self esteem like critical, you know, anxious individuals. That isn't that isn't the case. Of course, there are risks online. And we do need to be aware of what those risks are. But there are lots of benefits in terms of children's online use. At the end of the day, we've got to remember that children have been born within a digital world like particularly primary school children. They don't know life without Facebook, they literally have never experienced a life without smartphones, and this high level of connectivity. So if we stopped them from using social media, we're actually stifling their not only their digital skill development, but also their social development, because texting and WhatsApp in and FaceTiming and calling and all of those sorts of things, you know, posting online, that's all part of socialisation now, so it's really important that we don't stifle their development. Equally, we do need to protect them. Of course we do we need to ensure that they're developing safely. However, we need to ensure that our parameters of what that looks like are more accurate. So as I mentioned at the beginning, you know stranger danger? Yes, of course, we do need to protect children from that. Of course we do. But actually, we also need to educate children about how much they should or should not disclose online. Because for example, if you're an eight year old and you privately message your best friend, there are certain secrets that you might share with your best friend in person that you might sort of you know, tell them in person. But if you then type that via private message, there's now like, there's evidence of that secret. And is your best friend as much of a best friend as you think they are? Can they be trusted with that information, because again, we all know we will all at school once we fall out of friends every five minutes. And it's about making those kinds of choices. It's about navigating social interactions and self development online safely for children. And so in terms of applying that directly, I think it's I think parents need to be more willing to have conversations with their children about social media use and also to say, to co use, so that's another thing that I found within my findings is that parents who use social media with their child model, more positive interactions, and they show them how to be safe online, how to, like, you know, how to talk through things and, and have more of an open discourse and relationship about being online. That's really important for parents equally for teachers, it's, you know, teachers should feel that they can mention their social media use and can talk to children about how to do that safely. And for a safety education in schools to be more and more rounded in terms of thinking about these risks and benefits and not just talking about stranger danger. So I think that's, that's a really important application in schools. And then like I said, with parents just being more open and having that dialogue with their children. I think those are two ways that my findings could directly be applied.

Louisa 16:36
That sounds fantastic. Yeah, I mean, it's like, because I remember a time obviously, when we didn't have smartphones and things I had dial up internet connection in my house, I guess a lot of parents are similar age to me. So they're coming from the same background. So really, yeah, not understanding what it's like to literally grow up as a child, and everything is just online. And it's just kind of so automatic of how to use everything. So yeah, actually weaving that into education. And making it clear would be fantastic. Because we're in such a weird point in time where the crossover between how technology changed is so big that there may be in some parents, there isn't as much of an understanding of how things work. So yeah, it's also really important to apply it in schools. So awesome research, and I guess you have a lot of kind of connections and things with schools already. So you know, how to talk to schools and how to bring things in. So you were very good person to do this research, I would say,

But yeah, um, next up, so we're coming towards the end of our chat about the paper. Now, that was a really interesting paper. And if you want to find out more about the paper, all of the links will be in the podcast description. But there's probably some students that are a bit earlier on in their careers that are listening today. Do you have any advice for them?

Beatrice 17:52
Definitely, don't be hard on yourself, manage your expectations. So, um, you know, I'm talking about this paper today, which I'm very proud of, etc, etc. But, you know, it's taken me 10 years to be at this point in my career. Now, you know, I did my degree, I did my PGCE. I taught for a few years, I then did my PhD, etc, etc. It's a long road. And I think, manage your expectations in terms of in the long term, what do you want to achieve as a career, but also in the short term, you know, don't expect to get first and every single assignment that you complete, because actually, that's not what being an academic, or that's not what being a researcher is about being a researcher is about coming across problems, or coming across issues and being able to troubleshoot those, and being able to look after yourself in the process. So I think if you're early on in your career, if you're, whether that means you're a student, or whether you're whether you're an ECR whether you're a PhD student, wherever you may be, just manage your expectations. And don't expect to be perfect to every single thing that you do, because it doesn't actually exist, that can't be done. Yeah.

Louisa 19:09
I mean, that's fantastic advice. And I would massively echo that sentiment have sort of taken me a while to get to this point, too. And I haven't been a teacher and everything beforehand, I worked in retail before I went into academia, I decided what to do, because it was kind of found education more difficult to access when I was younger. But yeah, I didn't get first in my degree, and I have a PhD now. And it's like, it's kind of the excitement about research. And as you said, that problem solving that comes in that's really important. So fantastic advice.

Beatrice 19:39
Yeah. As soon if you asked me, I was like that is straight away what I want to say you know, it's not about being Tip Top amazing at everything you do. It's about having a good work ethic, and it's about being in it for the long haul, you know, it really is a marathon. And just sort of take your time and enjoy the process, as Adele said in an interview recently: "trust the process".

Louisa 20:03
Did she? I'm not on board with the sort of current events in

Beatrice 20:08
I am celebrity news and I love Tik Tok.

Louisa 20:14
Yeah, I did download Tik Tok because I wanted to post videos of my guinea pigs but um,

Beatrice 20:19
oh yeah, I'll be your follower. I'll be your first and most dedicated follower.

Louisa 20:24
I do have a Tik Tok account with two guinea pig pictures on it, but I haven't done
much. I will be honest

Beatrice 20:30
Start doing much.

Louisa 20:32
It's a bit of a time sucker isn't it? So I don't want to.

Thank you so much for your time today. That was a really, really good chat. Really good advice at the end and really interesting research. So yep. For anyone listening as well. Thank you so much for joining us today. You can find out more about Beatrice and her work by following the links in the podcast description on Buzz on Buzzsprout. Sorry, or in your podcast app. Join us again at the same time next week for another episode of PsychologiCALL! Bye!

Beatrice 20:59