An increasing number of people are using the Internet for health purposes. Online social media makes it possible to find and share health-related information and to find social support by connecting with others who have the same issue or condition. This is true not only of patients or people experiencing health issues, but also of their caregivers. So far, little is known about caregivers’ use of social media for social support purposes. This study focused on caregivers of children of Down syndrome and implemented a uses and gratifications framework to examine their social media use, motivation, and perceived support outcomes. An online survey was followed by a content analysis of two popular social media sites utilized by the sample. Findings suggest that caregivers are indeed heavy social media users with the majority accessing their preferred sites on a daily basis to view content and at least once a week to post their own content or reply to content posted by others. The strongest motivation for using social media was to connect with people who understood what they were experiencing. Having access to other parents with children the same age and/or with the same medical conditions was a significant motivation for using social media over face-to-face support groups. Belonging support (the sense of belonging to a group similar to oneself) was also the highest perceived outcome of social media use. Caregivers felt that there were people who shared their same concerns and interests on their preferred social media site. Finding emotional support was another strong motivation for using social media and informational support was the second highest perceived outcome from social media use. This study sheds light on how caregivers use social media for support purposes and provides practical suggestions for improving the capacity of other health or care-related online communities focused on providing social support to better serve the needs of their users.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Caregivers -- Case studies; Social media in medicine -- Case studies; Social networks -- Therapeutic use -- Case studies; Down syndrome -- Patients -- Care

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Polin, Linda;