Activity: Participating in or organising a conference or workshop › Participating in a conference or workshop › Research
Objectives To consider the phenomenon that is unsupervised contact by young people in care with members of their social network using mobile technologies and social media, and how social work practitioners may best respond to the associated risks and opportunities.
Methods Doctoral research literature review that has focused on the use of mobile technologies by adolescents, and then more specifically adolescent children in care. The review of the literature has also taken into account brain development, attachment as well as the discipline of educational psycho-therapy.
Results The literature review has highlighted that unsupervised contact by adolescents when undertaken and pursued is complex and risky because of the lack of support to manage the emotional complications. Moreover, there is the added difficulty of practitioners being unable to effectively manage the nature and level of contact which may have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of the young person, as well as leading to greater likelihood of placement disruption. These findings coupled with the adolescent brain development go some way to explain the behaviour of adolescents in care who pursue unsupervised contact because it is a type of strange and exciting experience which leads to communication with others in a fashion that is not hemmed in by spatial location, time or social conventions.
Conclusions Child and Family social work practitioners will need to acquire a greater understanding of mobile technologies and how they are used by adolescents in care. Moreover, in accordance with the current literature on adolescent brain development social work practitioners will need to give greater attention to the decision-making skills of adolescents in care to ensure that an environment of ‘cold cognition’ is created which may promote a better understanding of choices made and the subsequent consequences. Child and Family social work practitioners can also learn from the educational psychotherapeutic field, in particular Bomber (2009) who identifies that the key to effective support of young people who are experiencing attachment-related difficulties is through the process of emotional scaffolding which involves demonstrating to them that they are ‘kept in mind’, particularly during their numerous transitions