What Effect Is Social Media Having On Service Family Life?

What role do platforms like TikTok and WhatsApp play when it comes to staying in touch?

A new study by the Naval Children’s Charity is asking for volunteers to help with research about the effects of social media to better inform the Navy community. 

“This project will be the first in the UK to speak to service children and their parents about how they communicate using social media during military separation.” | Dr Lauren Godier-McBard

Royal Navy personnel are deployed more often and for longer periods – sometimes reaching up to nine months. 

What effect does this have on the parents and children at home and how can access to social media help families stay in touch? 

What role do platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok play for Naval children staying in touch with parents on long deployments at sea?  

These are crucial questions being asked by The Naval Children’s Charity. They have commissioned research by Anglia Ruskin University’s Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI), and they need like to hear from you. 

What Effect Is Social Media Having On Service Families Lives? Child Credit Naval Children’s Charity

Credit: Naval Children’s Charity

This newly commissioned research needs volunteers. Abigail Wood, Research Assistant at the University’s group ‘VFI’ said:

“The area is currently very under-researched. We don’t know very much about what the effects of using social media is on service families lives.” 

The VFI is looking for Royal Navy service leavers (in the last 12 months), current or veteran Naval spouses and Naval children between 11-18 years of age to contribute to focus groups on the topic.

Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Lauren Godier-McBard, lead investigator of the research, said: 

“Over two-thirds of children over the age of 12 in the UK report using social media platforms, and increased screen time is associated with social and emotional challenges for children. 

“For service children, social media provides an almost instant means of communicating with their serving parent.

"However, we know very little about how military families manage virtual relationships and the impact of this on service children.” 

It follows ‘The Impact of Service Life on the Military Child: the Overlooked Casualties of Conflict Update and Review Report’, due to be launched next month, also compiled in partnership with the VFI. 

This new study into social media will examine the advantages and disadvantages to children using online platforms to maintain their relationship with their parents who are serving on deployment.

To explore the different challenges within age brackets, the children will be separated into key stage groups - KS3, KS4 and KS5.

Clare Scherer Chief Executive Officer of the Naval Children's Charity NCC Credit NCC

Clare Scherer, Chief Executive Officer of the NCC | Credit: Naval Children's Charity

Clare Scherer, Chief Executive Officer of the NCC said:

“Our aim is to understand better what those challenges are and how we can support those families.” 

The charity will use the information gained from the research to teach children about what to expect, what the safest ways of communicating are and to bring better understanding to children separated from parents. 

As well as aiding the 3,000 plus children they work with, Clare says they aim to use the data to inform military decision-makers, saying: 

“We want to inform the Navy and Navy Command of how they can best support their serving personnel and their families to ensure that communication and these separations and these deployments are as good as they can be.” 

To find out more and take part visit www.navalchildrenscharity.org.uk