Blog post

Developing emotional resilience in a social media world

In the wake of the recent news that a fourteen year old girls' suicide has prompted questions over the accountability social media should take, Dr Pauline Green, Academic Lead for Social Work/Care at the University of Derby Online Learning, discusses social media and the role emotional resilience can play.

By Pauline Green - 15 February 2019

Following the suicide of Molly Russell in November 2017, The Guardian ran a report which discussed the open letter written by the Children's Commissioner for England that highlighted the 'horrific content' found on social media. The report called for social media channels, in this case Instagram in particular, to take a 'moment to reflect' following her death.

Increasingly social media is under the spotlight when it comes to suicide in young people. In the past, it would have been bullying, exam pressures, family separation or a break up that would have been to blame.

Social Media

Times have changed though and in this high tech world that we live in Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, comments in the newspaper article that social media may have been a possible cause for Molly's decision to commit suicide. And Molly's father agrees. After his daughter's death, he discovered material on her Pinterest and Instagram accounts related to depression and suicide. So Longfield is calling for an independent "digital ombudsman" to regulate and oversee social media sites.


According to the Office for National Statistics (2018), the number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2017. In the last year alone, there was a rise of 15%, 187 under 19 year olds took their own lives compared with 162 the year before. In spite of this, a quarter of these children and young people (55,000) were rejected for support because they did not meet the eligibility criteria.

What can we do?

We need to put a focus on helping children and young people to develop their emotional resilience. Rainey stated "Emotional resilience: It's the armour you need for modern life" in The Telegraph. Which sounds serious but it seems that being tough enough is what's required to withstand the blows of modern society. Being emotionally resilient is essential in being able to cope with difficult and challenging situations.

Emotional Resilience

So, what is emotional resilience? My research in defining 'emotional resilience' found that it's a complex combination of certain traits and skills.

Emotional resilience is also a process of development that is dependent on a wide range of factors including:

The good news is that emotional resilience can be developed and it is imperative that society upholds its responsibility in helping children and young people to be more resilient in their personal, school and working lives.

Social Pedagogy

One way of developing children and young people's resilience is to use a social pedagogical approach to their care and education. Social pedagogy has started to grow in popularity in recent years in the UK as a way of educating and caring for children and young people in a nurturing and creative way. Most importantly using a social pedagogic approach empowers children and young people. It may seem unusual at first for the children and young people to discover that the adults in their lives are working alongside and in partnership with them, but it is a great way to raise their confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

The future

The death of Molly Russell is evidence that social media can play a huge part in the lives of children and young people. We need to think more creatively about developing children and young peoples' coping abilities, confidence and resilience.

Find out more about our short courses in Emotional Resilience and Social Pedagogy.

About the author

Pauline Green wearing a suit jacket, standing and smiling

Pauline Green
Former course director and academic lead in Social Work and Social Care

Pauline is a registered social worker and worked as an academic at the University of Derby since 1999-2001. She qualified as a Social Worker in 1984 and worked in a wide range of statutory settings in both children and adult services.