Julia Kennedy


Communications and Media Studies Major

Advisor: Dr. Emilie Zaslow, Professor & Chair of Communication & Media Studies, Dyson Women’s Leadership Initiative Advisory Board

Document Type



Through a combination of academic research and creative storytelling, this thesis delves into the largely undocumented experiences of the “first social media kids,” an entire generation of tweens who grew up using social media in the 2010s before it was heavily moderated or imbued with age restrictions. While stories about this age of social media have been traded consistently in conversations between peers who are currently in their early twenties, there is a clear lack of academic work focused on early social media and the young users who explored it. Through the medium of an episodic and investigative podcast titled "Digital Rite of Passage: The First Social Media Kids," my work captures the previously neglected narratives and reflections of this age group to share with a society that constantly raises concerns about our youth being present on social media platforms. The focus of the podcast episode is identity, and how being on social media as a tween may have influenced expression and impacted the users’ sense of self. To provide a foundation of knowledge for the relationship between identity and social media, the literature review begins with an in-depth outline of the functions and characteristics of social media that draw users to the platform for specific purposes. It then explores the practice of self expression through social media platforms and the technological affordances that they provide for users. Lastly, it introduces the relationship between tween users and social media platforms, specifically regarding identity development in children during their tween years and why they are drawn toward social media as a means of expression and identity management. This research, combined with the art of creative storytelling through podcasting, will allow young adults to become a bigger part of the conversation surrounding young social media users by drawing on their own experiences to provide input on the controversial topic.