A qualitative study of social media and electronic communication among Canadian adolescent female soccer players


Adolescents communicate extensively with friends via electronic platforms such as texting and social media (Steeves, 2014). Social media use can have both positive and negative outcomes for adolescents' wellbeing and friendship quality, particularly in female populations (Twenge & Farley, 2021). Despite the prevalence of electronic communication in adolescents' lives, there has been less research exploring adolescent athletes' use of social media and electronic communication within a sport setting. Therefore, this research aimed to explore the impact of social media and electronic communication on female adolescent athletes' relationships within their sports team. Coaches, parents, and athletes (n = 22) from an Ontario soccer team took part in semi-structured interviews. Following qualitative content analysis (Elo & Kyngäs, 2008), four themes are presented: (a) athletes' use and perspectives of social media and electronic communication, (b) parent and coaches' perspectives of athletes' use of electronic communication, (c) building friendships and trust with teammates using electronic communication, and (d) the role of electronic communication in the formation of sub-groups. While adolescent athletes felt electronic communication was positive for team relationships, parents and coaches had several concerns about athletes' use of social media, particularly around the formation of 'cliques' in the soccer team. Youth sport organizations may wish to encourage athletes' use of electronic communication to foster teammate relationships, but may also need to consider safeguarding policies for the use of social media and electronic communication in youth sport settings.