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Adolescence & Social Media - EDU00049H

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Mrs. Annis Stenson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2018-19

Module summary

This module will look at social development in adolescence, the important developmental period that begins at puberty and ends with adult independence.This module will draw on social psychology studies demonstrating that adolescence is a significant period of social development, and the new body of literature investigating the impact of social media use in adolescence.

Professional requirements


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

In this module you will learn about the social development that occurs during adolescence, the important developmental period that begins at puberty and ends with adult independence. You will be introduced to the different aspects of social development that occur during adolescence. In addition, you will learn about the increasingly pervasive role of social media in adolescents’ lives, and understand what social media use tells us about adolescent development and mental health. You will develop skills in independently and critically analyse a range of psychology sources on adolescent development and social media. You will review to what extent we can trust on the evidence to date, and evaluate what the evidence tells us about the costs and benefits of adolescent social media use.


Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able to examine at an advanced level the different aspects of adolescent social development and mental health. You will understand different theories about how and why adolescents use social media, and the positive and negative impacts that social media use can have on adolescent development. You will recognise the limitations of the existing knowledge base on adolescent social media, and the specific avenues for future research. You will be able to apply comprehensive and detailed knowledge of theoretical concepts in seeking to understand why adolescents use social media. You will understand different interventions that have been run to improve adolescent wellbeing online. More generally, you will proactively seek out and engage with a range of sources, and critically evaluate the reliability and validity of these in informing and supporting academic argument.  You will be able to work autonomously to select and manage information and use this to engage effectively in academic debate. You will be able to conduct a systematic literature search, using search engines and databases effectively and efficiently. You will develop your writing and presentation skills for a range of audiences.

Module content

Week 2: Introduction to module

This session will provide an outline to the module and its assessment. We will consider adolescence as a critical period of social development, how and why adolescents engage in social media use, and whether concern about adolescents’ media use is justified.

Week 3: Social development in adolescence 1

This session will explore the social development that occurs during adolescence. We will consider how adolescence is a critical period of development of the self-concept, and also explore adolescent-typical behaviours such as social influence and risk-taking.

Week 4: Social development in adolescence 2

This session will explore in more detail the social development that occurs during adolescence, including sensitivity to social reward and social exclusion. We will also explore the increased risk of mental illness that occurs at this age.

Week 5: Development of the self-concept and self-esteem on social media

This session will explore the role of social media in the development of adolescents’ sense of self, and the ways in which social media affects adolescents’ self-esteem.

Week 6: Social reward online: the importance of receiving Likes

This session will explore how receiving positive feedback such as ‘Likes’ is a powerful driver of social media use, and how this is linked to reward processing in adolescence. We will also explore trolling, an online behaviour associated with negative aspects of social reward.

Week 7: Risk-taking online

This session will consider how social media use influences risk-taking behaviour in adolescents, including alcohol and substance use. We will also consider the phenomenon of copycat behaviour, in which adolescents repeat risky behaviour seen online.

Week 8: Prosocial and antisocial aspects of social media

This session will consider the positive and negative aspects of peer interaction on social media. We will explore the role that social media plays in friendship development and social support, and also consider the impact of cyberbullying and online social exclusion.

Week 9: Mental health online 1

The next two sessions will explore the two conflicting roles that social media plays in adolescent mental illness. First, in this session, we examine how social media might contribute to the development and exacerbation of mental health problems in adolescents.

Week 10: Mental health online 2

This second session on mental illness examines the ways in which social media might be harnessed to provide mental health support and promote recovery in adolescents.

Summer term

Week 1: Social media and body image

This session will discuss the role that social media plays in adolescents’ body image. We will consider the importance of body image at this age, and the ways in which social media may contribute to positive and negative body image attitudes.

Week 2: Social media and sleep

This session will consider the importance of sleep during adolescence, and the ways in which social media use can affect sleep at this age.

Week 3: Online gaming

This session will explore the impact that online gaming has on adolescent development.

Week 4: Social media in education

This session will consider the ways in which social media is being used in education settings, and the impact that social media has on learning.




Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work will be embedded throughout the module including class discussion, preparatory work and group activities as well as formative assessment due in week 7.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive peer feedback in sessions when taking part in discussions, small group work and presentations. Tutor feedback will be given regularly during class activities. Formal tutor feedback
will be provided for the formative assessment in week 7 both at an individual and group level. Summative feedback will be given in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

Indicative reading

Hewstone, M, Stroebe, W. & Jonas, K. (2012). Introduction to Social Psychology (BPS Textbooks in Psychology). Blackwell

Humphreys, A. (2015). Social media: Enduring principles. Oxford University Press.

Lerner, R. M. & Steinberg, L. (2013). Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, Second Edition. Wiley

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students