Understanding Adolescent Perspectives on Digital Technologies and Mental Wellbeing

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: UCL Interaction Centre

Abstract

Adolescents are affected by biological and cognitive changes; psychosocial demands including navigating interpersonal relationships and new social contexts; and the personal strive for independence and autonomy; these all play an important role in the process of identity formation (Adams and Marshall, 1996). Having a sense of self and identity can function to give structure and meaning to a person's experience; as well as values including political and morality, concepts such as sexuality and gender identity are particularly pertinent to the period of adolescence. We live in an increasingly digital age and this has changed the landscape of childhood and adolescence, with current generations amongst the first to grow up alongside digital technology embedded into almost all segments of daily life, which adds another layer of complexity to the ecosystem that teenagers navigate compared to older generations. Most research on technology use in adolescents is concerned with the potentially detrimental effects on wellbeing, while less research has focused on the potential positive effects of different types of media use, and how it can be used to promote wellbeing, and support young people as they navigate through adolescence.
This PhD project aims to better understand adolescents' attitudes towards different types of technology and how how young people contextualise digital technology use in their everyday lives. Th student will be gaining a broad overview of digital technology use, but plans to explore social media and gaming further, given the popularity and particular concerns associated with these - but also the potential improvement to wellbeing they can offer. A number of different methodologies, such as semi-structured interviews/focus groups, online focus groups and digital diaries, as well as observational studies and surveys will be used to explore such questions as:

1) How do adolescents integrate digital technology use into their everyday lives?
2) What is the relationship between digital media use esp. social media platforms, and identity and clarity of self-concept
3) How do young people learn to recognise and intervene online if others are at-risk of mental illness/how they can promote better wellbeing for others (instead of being bystanders)?
4) Online identities and roleplaying - to what extent is this expression helpful to self-discovery/clarity of self-concept?

The study will explore these questions in adolescents generally, as well as certain groups, such as stigmatised groups, eg., LGBT+, possibly mental health service users and also different sub-groups of technology users - e.g. gamers, vloggers.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513143/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2081659 Studentship EP/R513143/1 24/09/2018 23/09/2022 Leya Ann George