Fears abound about how social media, smartphones, and digital games are leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. What is under-discussed and under-investigated is how such technologies can foster social connection and engagement in ways that can build wellbeing among young people.

Young people are actively seeking information and support for mental health and wellbeing online, and their experiences vary. Online risks mirror offline vulnerabilities. Parents, educators, clinicians, and technology developers need approaches tailored to the needs and strengths of vulnerable youth.

This project dispels murky fears and moves beyond one-size-fits all solutions. Our goal is to identify, support, test, and communicate new digital strategies for tapping young people’s insights, agency, and technology engagements to support wellbeing.

 

“Much of our existing knowledge related to the core principles of how to promote healthy development among young people should translate into an evolving digital landscape.”
– Social Media and Youth Wellbeing Report

Download the Report

New report provides insights into youth connections for wellbeing. Respected psychologists and scientists identify gaps and opportunities for supporting adolescents in today’s digitally-focused world

FEATURED RESOURCE: Tweens, Teens, Tech, and Mental Health: Coming of Age in an Increasingly Digital, Uncertain, and Unequal World 2020

New report from Common Sense Media seeks to understand how best to reach adolescents who are disproportionately affected and most vulnerable, support them in digital spaces, and improve their mental health outcomes.

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHORS

Blog Posts

Supporting Youth Wellbeing Through Equitable and Relatable Online Connection

This post is the first in the Spaces of Refuge series that outlines an agenda, offers guiding principles, and provides case studies of how to tap youth agency and social and digital media to support mental health and wellbeing for vulnerable youth.

Read More

Connecting Bookworms Through Civic and Social-Emotional Learning

Novelly is a civic-minded book club for youth centered on a mobile reading app. The Novelly team curates a collection of stories centered on a social issue, embedding learning and interactivity in the stories to spark critical thinking and empathy.

Read More

Exploring Esports as Context to Support Youth Wellbeing

In this case study we will examine ways the Esports for Wellbeing program sought to support mental health and wellbeing for a group of vulnerable teenage players. A set of guiding principles highlighted in the Spaces of Refuge series serve as our...

Read More

“Black boys are losing their lives, but black girls…we’re losing our minds” — Youth Mobilizing Social Media for Healing in the Black Lives Matter Movement

These days, it seems impossible to escape the crushing psychological weight of Black death and dying. Everywhere I turn – my social media accounts, local and international news, attendance at protests – the suffocating grasp of Black death and dying

Read More

Finally, a Smarter and Science-Based Approach to Kids and Screens

After years of being warned about the toxic effects of screens on children, finally we have an evidence-based set of guidelines that may actually help educators, families, and children successfully navigate “screen time” in the digital age.

Read More

How Dropping Screen Time Rules Can Fuel Extraordinary Learning

Young people are growing up in a new era of information abundance where they can google anything and connect with specialized expert communities online.

Read More

Teens’ Social Media Use Isn’t the Problem

As researchers spend more time analyzing what teenagers do on social media and we learn about the overwhelming benefits, it begs the question: What needs to be done to further this conversation? The “Social Media and Youth Wellbeing” report

Read More

Mental Health in a Digital World

Many people improve their physical health through workout routines and meal plans. How about mental health? There are now many online tools that either help people find support or learn skills to improve their mental wellbeing

Read More

Insights into Social Media and Youth Wellbeing

“It is clear that youth’s growing reliance on online support for mental health represents an opportunity for providers of mental health services, apps, and other supports.”

Read More

Healthy Social Media Engagement

New report raises many important thoughts for parents, educators, and researchers to consider when it comes to young people and their relationship with social media.

Read More

In The News

...

Mental Health Apps Draw Wave of New Users as Experts Call for More Oversight

“Finding an effective therapy app can be like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Stephen Schueller, a UCI assistant professor of psychological sciences

Read More
...

Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t

“There doesn’t seem to be an evidence base that would explain the level of panic and consternation around these issues,” said Candice L. Odgers, a professor at the University of California, Irvine

Read More
...

In the Age of Smartphones, Parents Are Encouraged to Be Media Mentors, Not Gatekeepers

Parenting in the age of smartphones can be really stressful. There’s a growing push to encourage parents to be media mentors rather than gatekeepers. Mizuko Ito, director of the Connected Learning Lab, talks with NPR’s Anya Kamenetz in the Life Kit

Read More
...

Conversations With Mimi Ito and Stephen Schueller: Beneficial Aspects of Social Media Use Among Children and Adolescents

Scientific Inquirer discusses the findings of a recent report on social media use with its authors Mimi Ito and Stephen Schueller

Read More
...

What Teens Need Us to Know About Social Media and Mental Health

“A new report from a team of researchers at the Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine provides rich evidence of what we have been sharing in workshops for years and the philosophy that guides our online classes..."

Read More
...

Social Media Offers Students a ‘Lifeline’ in Age of Anxiety

“College students have turned to social media—not to cut themselves off from current events—but to seek connections that boost mental health during this age of coronavirus-induced anxiety and isolation.”

Read More
...

Speaking of Psychology: How to Choose Effective, Science-Based Mental Health Apps With Stephen Schueller, Phd

Stephen Schueller discusses his nonprofit mental health app reviewing website, One Mind PsyberGuide and how to choose effective, science-based mental health apps.

Read More
...

The ‘Enrichment Gap’ Is Widening. Students’ Social-Emotional Development Is at Risk.

“What we have here is not a capacity problem. It’s a supply chain problem. Educator capacity sits untapped at a time of unprecedented need.” Mimi Ito shares her concerns about how the pandemic has drastically expanded the out-of-school enrichment gap

Read More
...

Playing Video Games May Be Good for Your Mental Health, Experts Say

Playing video games might be good for you despite years of hype to the contrary, experts say. A recent paper published by scientists from the University of Oxford finds some games can positively impact a player’s mental health.

Read More
...

Instagram for Kids Could Work if Done Right, Experts Say

“The way online platforms and regulations are designed right now, it assumes there’s this cliff at 13 where kids are thrown into the wild open internet.” Mimi Ito discusses why it’s important to focus on connection rather than control when it comes t

Read More
...

Yes, Online Communities Pose Risks for Young People, but They Are Also Important Sources of Support

Currently, evidence does not support the idea that social media use is generally harmful to young people’s well-being. In fact, comparing oneself to others’ positive social media posts can even enhance well-being by motivating self-improvement.

Read More
...

1-2-1 With Josh Richards & Griffin Johnson

Watch Josh Richards go 1-2-1 with Griffin Johnson about how difficult it can be for them to be vulnerable and open up about their feelings. They are joined Dr. Stephen Schueller of One Mind who speaks about the importance of self-compassion and

Read More
...

Meet the Teens Making the Digital World a Kinder and Gentler Place

A new project called HX aims to generate reimagined models of technology that put people first, prioritizing psychological well-being and ethical behavior online.

Read More

Principal Investigators

Mimi Ito

UC Irvine

Collaborating Faculty

Tiera Tanksley

University of Colorado, Boulder

Jin Ha Lee

Jin Ha Lee

University of Washington

Jason Yip

University of Washington

Team

Jennifer Cabrera

Graduate Student Researcher

UC Irvine

Remy Cross

Research Manager

UC Irvine

Maria Anderson-Coto

Maria Anderson-Coto

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Evan Conaway

Evan Conaway

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Kelli Dickerson

Kelli Dickerson

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Thomas Grace

Thomas Grace

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Maya Hernandez

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Krithika Jagannath

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Benji Kaveladze

Benji Kaveladze

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Rose O'leary

Rose O'Leary

Graduate Student Researcher, UC Irvine

Katerina Schenke

Katalyst Methods

Partners

With Support From: