Mayo youth group launch research findings on social media

The Mayo Tusla Youth Advisory group recently launched the findings of a research project they undertook in relation to social media.

The group, which is a partnership between Foroige and Tusla, is made up of 15 young people aged between 14 to18 living in Mayo. Specially trained by the UNESCO Child and Research Centre in NUI Galway to become Youth Researchers, the group has now completed three pieces of youth research in the county to date.

When examining subjects which would be topical for young people in Mayo and in the rest of the country, the group decided to focus on social media and the emotions it elicits in young people. Almost 500 young people from all over Mayo filled in the online survey.

Some of the findings of their research include: (1 ) Almost all the young people surveyed had a smart phone or mobile device. The majority of these young people received their first device between the ages of 11-13 years; (2 ) Almost half of young people surveyed in Mayo think that social media greatly influences their life; (3 ) 21% of 12-13 year olds feel annoyed or agitated using social media; (4 ) 36% of 17-18 year olds feel annoyed or agitated using social media; (5 ) Girls felt that their parents put more restrictions on their phone use than boys parents' did; (6 ) 59% of those surveyed only used social media at night. Only 1% said they used their phones during school time; (7 ) There was little difference found between young people in rural and urban areas; (8 ) Although 70% of respondents didn’t feel anxious using social media, 57% of them felt that social media is a cause of anxiety in teenagers and (9 ) 86% of respondents felt happy using social media.

The group went on to make five key recommendations, which are: (1 ) There needs to be less negativity around social media; (2 ) Adults need to be more informed about how important social media is for young people to communicate with each other. Rather than restricting it, they should teach their children to use it responsibly; (3 ) Workshops in schools could help manage anxiety around social media and teach young people how to use it responsibly; (4 ) There needs to be a dedicated national support service that young people can freely access to assist with issues arising from social media use and (5 ) Organisations should have a parents' evening to give a balanced view of social media and how best to manage it.

The group was invited to the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre International Conference in June, where two members of the group, presented their research findings and a video. The feedback from the conference was overwhelmingly positive, and the video has been shared by a wide variety of agencies.

Speaking about the project, Liam Whyte, PPFS Senior Manager Tusla, Mayo said: "This research was a very important and timely project given the current focus everywhere on the negatives of social media. At Tusla we are delighted to support the group, along with Foroige and Comhairle na nOg, and look forward to seeing what they turn to next."

Stephaine Cook, Foroige, said: "The group worked incredibly hard on this project, which was a real success. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when agencies work together with young people and support them in their endeavours."

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