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Young People, Social Media and Physical Activity Education


Project Description

Introduction, Aims and Research Questions
The idea that social media has an effect on young people’s health is compelling (Orben & Przybylski, 2019). The time young people spend online has doubled in the last decade, with the accessibility and use of social media continuing to grow at an exponential rate (Ofcom, 2018). At the same time, there has been an increase in the prevalence of mental health problems (OECD, 2018), physical inactivity, as well as poor diet/nutrition choices and rates of obesity (Adab et al., 2018; WHO, 2018). These combined societal trends have led many stakeholders – and the media - to associate social media use with poor physical and mental health outcomes (OECD, 2019). Alongside the risks however, there is evidence that social media can be a positive health resource in young people’s lives and used to support education, and the development of health-related knowledge and behaviours (Goodyear & Armour, 2019).

The aim of this PhD is to investigate the relationship between young people’s engagement with social media and their health in relation to physical activity. The specific focus is on education, and elucidating trends/patterns in how young people learn about movement and their bodies. The main research question is:
- How do young people learn about physical activity in relation to social media?

Conceptual and Methodological Considerations:
This project is grounded in the sub-discipline of Sport and Exercise Pedagogy (SEP), that is located in the academic territory between Education Sciences and Human Movement Sciences/Sport and Exercise Science/Kinesiology (Armour, 2014). SEP navigates disciplinary specialisation and moves beyond the dominant medical and biophysical models of physical activity by synthesising knowledge from physiological, cognitive and social-emotional systems of movement and learning (Armour, 2014). SEP is also a conduit for developing the kind of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary knowledge to inform effective models of physical activity promotion (Armour, 2014).

A participatory and iterative research design will be adopted to provide rich, in-depth and detailed insights into young people’s engagement with social media. Novel data collection techniques will be co-produced with young people that build on established design-based, ethnographic and visual methods. Case studies will be used to report the findings, and bridge the very clear gaps between adults and young people’s understandings and experiences of social media. An example of previous work can be accessed from: http://opencpd.net/Digital%20Case%20Studies%20.html


Funding Notes

You can search for sources of funding at: View Website
For details of the funding available and advice on making your application, please contact:


I welcome applications from Home/EU and overseas students. The University of Birmingham offers a number of competitive scholarships for students of the highest calibre. Further details are available at : View Website.

Students are also welcome to apply with their own funding for this project, either through their own personal funds or by securing a scholarship.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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