Talking to Young People Where They Are
Over several weeks we talked to 25 young people using two online platforms: dscout and Facebook. Dscout is a mobile research platform that is designed to capture data in-context. The platform has thousands of “Scouts” that you can recruit into your study, based on demographics and the research topic of interest. Information is gathered from Scouts through “missions,” which are short episodic data collection events.
We designed a three-part dscout mission where 15 recruited Scouts shared their screen with us, and verbally described the content of what they saw on a given social media platform and how it made them feel. Over the course of 10 days, they submitted five different “social media snapshots” in addition to open-ended video responses to our prompts. We collected over 120 individual entries from the group of Scouts, rapidly analyzed the data, and used it to help us drive our next round of data collection, on Facebook.
We recruited 10 participants through Facebook ads and conducted the focus group in a private Facebook group where the conversation was visible only to the facilitators (Hopelab staff) and participants. While Facebook is often referenced as the platform GenZ-ers are only on to stay in touch with their Great Aunt Sally, the platform has also been successfully used by health researchers to conduct digital, asynchronous focus groups 1.
Over the course of four hours, focus group questions were posted by facilitators, and participants were asked to respond to each question as well as to other participants’ responses. Participants were able to answer all at once or pop in throughout the 4-hour period. The facilitators asked follow-up questions and tagged participants to expand on certain responses to facilitate discussion around emerging themes. To protect confidentiality, participants were removed from the group after the discussion concluded, and the data were pulled and analyzed for salient themes.
After analyzing the data, we saw six clear themes emerge:
- Parent and family involvement. Parents and family members are providing advice to young people about social media, and young people are listening.
- Managing negative experiences. Young people have specific strategies they use to manage negative social media experiences.
- Ubiquitous graphic content. Young people are encountering graphic content on most platforms and there is not a clear path for them to be equipped to manage this.
- Mood management. Young people are intentionally and unintentionally using social media to make them “feel good.”
- Positivity and creativity. Young people want positivity in their lives and to contribute to creating positivity; social media is an outlet for them to do so.
- Ads. Young people feel a lack of control and powerlessness in response to being targeted by ads, and hold apps responsible.