Social media follows you everywhere
: The social media use of adolescents accessing counselling support within Post-Primary schools in Northern Ireland

  • Eavan Hennessy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Educational, Child and Adolescent Psychology


Social media has become a pervasive part of adolescent culture in the past decade. Research has responded by attempting to establish how social media might be advantageous or detrimental to youth mental health. This study explored the impact of social media use (SMU) on the mental health of a specific cohort of adolescents, those with existing or emerging mental health concerns. It explored the SMU of adolescents (N=9, aged 16-19 years) accessing school-based counselling support in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. It also examined their perceptions of the impact of SMU on their levels of anxiety, depression, or psychological distress. The study adopted a mixed-method design. An Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) measure consisting of a brief questionnaire (sent twice daily via text for 14 days) was used to track ‘real time’ trends in participants’ SMU and mood. Individual semi-structured interviews followed. Following descriptive and inferential analysis of quantitative data and thematic analysis of qualitative data, the findings were triangulated. Individual variability was evident in screen-time and the number of apps used, although, there was no significant correlation between these variables and levels of anxiety or low mood. However, differences were found in ratings of the impact of specific apps on participants’ mood. Together, quantitative, and qualitative findings suggest that SMU confers a range of risks and benefits to adolescent mental health and highlight the importance of considering the demographic and individual variables that appear to mediate this complex relationship. Findings are discussed in relation to existing literature. Recommendations and implications for educational psychology practice and future research are discussed.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 December 2024.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsEducation Authority
SupervisorAnthea Percy (Supervisor), Emma Berry (Supervisor) & Agnieszka Graham (Supervisor)


  • Social media use
  • adolescent mental health
  • pastoral care support
  • mental health
  • educational psychology
  • school based counselling
  • secondary school
  • adolescent

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