Young Advocates, CERYS SMITH

As part of the Catholic Schools Office Virtual Academy, students from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are encouraged to think across disciplines to solve real world-problems in an area of interest to them. 

At the end of the year, students in the Virtual Academy present their research to a panel of education, industry, and community experts. It is a rewarding opportunity for some of the Diocese’s most highly gifted students to advocate for matters close to their heart and understand their ability to apply their critical and creative thinking skills to drive change. The academy supports extended learning for students in Years 5-8. Here is a snapshot of Cerys Smith current research project. 

Year 8, St Paul's High School, Booragul
Cerys Smith has never known a world without social media. However, the teen admits that while she uses it daily, she has observed it doesn't leave her feeling good about herself, and that scrolling is not a particularly productive use of her time.

This self-reflection catalysed her project, which seeks to uncover the effect of social media on the social development of teenagers and identify ways teens and their parents can help mitigate any negative impacts.

As part of her research, Cerys developed an inquiry question: “How does social media affect the social development of teenagers?” and was thrilled to receive more than 200 responses from people worldwide.

"So far, I have discovered that despite their screen times ranging from 2-21 hours per week, the majority of responders said they felt 'addicted to social media; that it made them feel like their own life was boring; and that they feel disconnected when they turn it off’. However, they also said that they weren't going to stop using it," she said.

Cerys expects to complete her research project by the end of this month and plans to present her findings in a short film, which she will upload on YouTube.


In 2021 the Virtual Academy presentation day will be held online via Microsoft Teams on Thursday 25 November. During the day we will acknowledge and celebrate our students and provide them with the opportunity to discuss their learning and their work with a group of very interested and knowledgeable experts. Each student’s presentation will be based on their research project completed as part of a their unit of work. 

Gifted Education is a focus for schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. To discover more about our Gifted Education program click here. 

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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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