Preserving social capital: the opportunities and challenges that web 2.0 creates for young people in foster care

Justin Rogers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Preserving social capital: the opportunities and challenges that web 2.0 creates
for young people in foster care. There are 87000 children and young people in public care in the United Kingdom the vast majority, over 70%, are placed in foster care settings (The Fostering Network 2011). The reasons that children and young people enter in to public care centre on concerns relating to abuse and neglect. These concerns may also be combined with parents who are experiencing mental health or substance misuse difficulties (Schofield 2000; I. Sinclair 2005; Biehal et al. 2010). For young people the move to foster care results in having to adjust to living within a different family and this can also mean living in a different area and attending a different school. These changes mean young people in foster care potentially experience disrupted social networks.

This PhD project examines these social networks through the application of the concept of social capital, as understood by Pierre Bourdieu. The project has gathered in-depth qualitative data from interviews with ten young people in foster care aged between 12 and 14 years old. The data was gathered across two interviews with each participant, using visual task based methods, eco-maps and photo elicitation. This presentation will report on the findings that relate to the complex practices around the young people’s use of web 2.0 technologies. The study found that young people in foster care are actively engaging with these developing methods of communication in order to preserve their social capital. Online social networking enables the young people to exercise agency in a constrained situation and maintain relationships with family and friends on their own terms. However, these developing methods of communication also present challenges for the young people, for example, the lack of physical contact online provides sad reminders of disrupted relationships. These practices also exist within a context of concerns about child protection and the privacy and safety risks of web 2.0 uses, and these concerns are dominant in the advice given to foster carers about internet use
(Falkirk Council 2010; Devon County Council 2012).Of course in foster care there are at times child protection concerns and good reasons why children are restricted from contact with dangerous and inappropriate people in their social network. However, with the integrative nature of web 2.0 and its increasing accessibility across society, practice approaches that attempt to restrict the access of children and young people present as an increasingly ineffective response. The findings of this study highlight the positive benefits that young people in foster care gain from engaging in web 2.0, for example in relation to their sense of identity and belonging. The young people, with support from carers, also presented as being able to relate to people in their networks on web 2.0 technologies in responsible ways, demonstrating an ability to accept boundaries from carers about who they were able to add as a 'friend’ online. Therefore, this paper argues that policy and practice responses to web 2.0 uses for children and young people in foster care wherever possible should recognise the potential benefits and take a supportive and advisory tone as opposed to being restrictive and authoritarian.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventYouth 2.0 International workshop - Antwerp, Belgium
Duration: 20 Mar 201322 Mar 2013


WorkshopYouth 2.0 International workshop


Dive into the research topics of 'Preserving social capital: the opportunities and challenges that web 2.0 creates for young people in foster care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this