UBC Theses and Dissertations
"Normal or...?" narratives of youth seeking online support Thiessen, Sara
As technology continues to advance, there has been an increase in youth using online forums to seek help and access emotional, relational, and mental health support; yet, very little is known about how youth are using these forums and what online intervention tools have to offer youth. Therefore, the purpose of my research is to explore what online narratives (disclosures and responses posted on support site blogs) have to teach social workers and others about the lived experiences of youth accessing online supports, including their online interactions with peers and professionals. To meet this purpose I applied a narrative ethnographic methodological approach analyzing 18 peer-to-peer disclosures and responses and 14 youth disclosures with professional responses from two online support sites: Teenline Online (teenlineonline.org) and Kids Help Phone (kidshelpphone.ca). Three primary themes were revealed. The first two themes 'Identity Formation' and 'Access to Power and Autonomy' underscores the ways in which youth used these forums to narrate their unique stories. The third theme, 'Unique Contributions of Online Support' illustrates that while there were similarities in which support was offered between the two sites, there were also some notable differences in how peers offered support compared to professionals. These findings have important implications for social workers as it demonstrates the possible motivations behind youth seeking online support, the experiences of youth using online supports and what these forums may offer youth seeking relational and/or mental health support. Further, findings have important implications for the development of online interventions, including the urgent need for professional development and training in this area.
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