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The conceptualisation of social media by young novice users: implications for the early secondary school curriculum

The conceptualisation of social media by young novice users: implications for the early secondary school curriculum
The conceptualisation of social media by young novice users: implications for the early secondary school curriculum
In the United Kingdom, over 70% of teenagers actively use at least one social media account. The number and variety of platforms available have increased rapidly since 2006 when Facebook first encouraged public access to their social network. While social media companies set the minimum age for holding an account at thirteen years: currently a quarter of UK children have a profile by their eleventh birthday.
What children understand about social media arises from a range of influences including home, school, their peer group as well as personal experience. These all contribute to their understanding of the affordances and conceptualisation of social media. Since many parents feel ill-equipped to support or guide their children in using social media, schools are consequently at the forefront of educating pupils about these platforms.
The English National Curriculum is inclined towards problematising rather than promoting the affordances of online technologies; requiring schools to support young people to develop “safe, respectful and responsible” approaches when online. This research, therefore, seeks to determine whether pupils have a suitable conceptual understanding of social media to allow them to act safely and flourish when online.
The study reviews the extent to which schools respond to statutory guidance from the Department for Education and other influential bodies. Discourse analysis of secondary school policies and Key Stage 3 curriculum materials demonstrate that essential government priorities are reflected in the curriculum. A further line of enquiry reviews Ofsted secondary school inspection reports. Here, where reports explicitly comment on pupil understanding of social media, they confirm that pupils know how to keep themselves safe. This overwhelming endorsement of school effectiveness belies a wider reality where many children report struggling over their use of social media.
To assess the conceptualisation of social media the study accesses the opinions and voices of pupils aged 11-14, providing them with an opportunity to discuss how they conceptualise social media. A survey was completed by pupils from two schools (n=468) which was subsequently supplemented with interviews with children (n=18) who assisted in interpreting the survey data. This work was undertaken to determine the extent to which pupils’ conceptualisation of social media is supported by National Curriculum priorities and the teaching received in secondary schools.
The study concludes that novice users of social media not only have sound knowledge of the names of the most common and popular platforms but may also hold a broader and more fluid understanding of what constitutes social media than teachers might expect. The study also concludes that awareness of pupils’ broader definitional boundaries of social media will support teachers needing to help young people stay safe when online. A further conclusion is that there is an insufficient emphasis in schools about how social media may be used beneficially by children.
University of Southampton
Coombs, Ian, Nicholas
a63cbe8b-0753-4c3a-9ba1-4b1a0fbecb46
Coombs, Ian, Nicholas
a63cbe8b-0753-4c3a-9ba1-4b1a0fbecb46
Gibbins, Nicholas
98efd447-4aa7-411c-86d1-955a612eceac

Coombs, Ian, Nicholas (2022) The conceptualisation of social media by young novice users: implications for the early secondary school curriculum. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 487pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

In the United Kingdom, over 70% of teenagers actively use at least one social media account. The number and variety of platforms available have increased rapidly since 2006 when Facebook first encouraged public access to their social network. While social media companies set the minimum age for holding an account at thirteen years: currently a quarter of UK children have a profile by their eleventh birthday.
What children understand about social media arises from a range of influences including home, school, their peer group as well as personal experience. These all contribute to their understanding of the affordances and conceptualisation of social media. Since many parents feel ill-equipped to support or guide their children in using social media, schools are consequently at the forefront of educating pupils about these platforms.
The English National Curriculum is inclined towards problematising rather than promoting the affordances of online technologies; requiring schools to support young people to develop “safe, respectful and responsible” approaches when online. This research, therefore, seeks to determine whether pupils have a suitable conceptual understanding of social media to allow them to act safely and flourish when online.
The study reviews the extent to which schools respond to statutory guidance from the Department for Education and other influential bodies. Discourse analysis of secondary school policies and Key Stage 3 curriculum materials demonstrate that essential government priorities are reflected in the curriculum. A further line of enquiry reviews Ofsted secondary school inspection reports. Here, where reports explicitly comment on pupil understanding of social media, they confirm that pupils know how to keep themselves safe. This overwhelming endorsement of school effectiveness belies a wider reality where many children report struggling over their use of social media.
To assess the conceptualisation of social media the study accesses the opinions and voices of pupils aged 11-14, providing them with an opportunity to discuss how they conceptualise social media. A survey was completed by pupils from two schools (n=468) which was subsequently supplemented with interviews with children (n=18) who assisted in interpreting the survey data. This work was undertaken to determine the extent to which pupils’ conceptualisation of social media is supported by National Curriculum priorities and the teaching received in secondary schools.
The study concludes that novice users of social media not only have sound knowledge of the names of the most common and popular platforms but may also hold a broader and more fluid understanding of what constitutes social media than teachers might expect. The study also concludes that awareness of pupils’ broader definitional boundaries of social media will support teachers needing to help young people stay safe when online. A further conclusion is that there is an insufficient emphasis in schools about how social media may be used beneficially by children.

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Submitted date: January 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 456830
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/456830
PURE UUID: 9836e016-cc64-414f-91f8-1ed2d3213b8d
ORCID for Nicholas Gibbins: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6140-9956

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 12 May 2022 16:46
Last modified: 13 May 2022 01:36

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Contributors

Author: Ian, Nicholas Coombs
Thesis advisor: Nicholas Gibbins ORCID iD

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