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Webinar, Blog Theories webinar series CO:RE at LSE Published: 16 Feb 2022 Last updated: 08 Sep 2022

The impact of digital experiences on young people with mental health vulnerabilities

Adolescents’ mental health in a digital age has been in the headlines over recent months for at least two reasons. Most important, concern is growing that children and young people face significant mental health difficulties and that professional services are insufficiently resourced to support them. This concern predates the pandemic, but it seems clear that matters have worsened over the past couple of years.

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Video: Webinar - The impact of digital experiences on adolescents with mental health vulnerabilities. | If you should experience issues with the video player, please watch the video here on our YouTube channel.

Second, the efforts in many countries to regulate social media platforms (as with the UK’s Online Safety Bill) have been linked to adolescent mental health difficulties by a series of events, including Instagram’s plan for a “Kids” service, the advent of the Age Appropriate Design Code, Frances Haugen’s vivid testimony of the self-regulation failings at Facebook/Meta among other social media companies, and a seemingly unstoppable series of personal tragedies linking social media to self-harm and suicide. 

Of importance to some, though less controversial, is the possibility that the digital environment could provide a source of help for young people – whether informally, or through digital provision of clinical services and support.

To understand the relation between adolescent mental health and the digital environment, and to understand better how young people with mental health difficulties engage with it, we undertook some exploratory research – to understand what the evidence says, and what young people themselves have to say. This webinar presents some key findings from the pilot research and introduces the plans for the follow-up project.

Summary of key findings | Full report | More about the pilot project

More about the follow-up project: DIORA: Dynamic Interplay of Online Risk and Resilience in Adolescence

Speaker biographies

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Dr Chris Edwards is interested in the investigation of experiences through qualitative methods. In addition to this project on digital technology use of vulnerable adolescents, he is working on realisation experiences when considering dreams, on the service use experiences, and parenthood experiences and concepts of self and others held by adoptees in the longitudinal English and Romanian Adoptee (ERA) study. He also works as a Teaching Fellow at KCL. 

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Dr Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne is a Research Fellow in the ExPAND research group, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. Kasia’s research broadly concerns risks and opportunities created by access to digital technology within the context of family and child and adolescent mental health. This includes developing evidence-based parenting interventions that use mobile phone technology to provide low-cost and scalable support for parents of young children both in the community and within children’s health services. She is also interested in examining the mechanisms that underpin the associations between childhood and adolescent mental health difficulties and digital engagement.

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Sonia Livingstone FBA, OBE is a Professor of Social Psychology at the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has published 20 books including “The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age.” She directs the projects “Children’s Data and Privacy Online,” “Global Kids Online”  (with UNICEF) and “Parenting for a Digital Future”, and she is Deputy Director of the UKRI-funded “Nurture Network.” Since founding the 33 country EU Kids Online network, Sonia has advised the UK government, European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Europe, OECD and UNICEF.

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Edmund Sonuga-Barke is Professor of Developmental Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. Inspired by his own childhood experiences his research focuses on understanding neuro-developmental disorders and their mental health consequences across the life span. To this end, he employs basic developmental science approaches to study the pathogenesis of such conditions, their underlying genetic and environmental risk and resilience sources and their mediating brain mechanisms. Professor Sonuga-Barke was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2016), a Fellow of the British Academy (2018), amongst the ‘most influential scientific minds’ in psychology and psychiatry by Clarivate (2018) and an Honorary Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark (2019).

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Dr Mariya Stoilova is a Post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her area of expertise is at the intersection of child rights and digital technology with a particular focus on the opportunities and risks of digital media use in the everyday lives of children and young people, data and privacy online, digital skills, and pathways to harm and wellbeing.

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Authors

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Team member, CO:RE at LSE

Mariya Stoilova

Mariya Stoilova is a post-doctoral researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) working on children’s rights, online risks and opportunities, and well-being. She is member of the CO:RE work package 5 on theory.

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
CO:RE at LSE
Theories

The team at the LSE works on theory, providing a series of mutually cross-fertilising mechanisms to coordinate and support the theoretical dimension of research. The team identifies valuable theoretical concepts that offer multidisciplinary breadth and depth in understanding the long-term impact of digital media on children and youth, and coallates all in a comprehensive theories toolkit that provides guidance throughout the theory pathway, from (research) question to generating theory.

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