Youth Connections
for Wellbeing

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


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


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.


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 – reinforced and substantiated by anti-Black racism – is always there…

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.

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

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…

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

“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.”

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.

Shareable Resources

Apps for Youth - Game Your Goals
Apps for Kids
Apps for Youth - Meditation
Apps for Youth - Track Your Thoughts
Apps for Youth - Talk It Through
Self-Care Toolkit
Screen Time for Kids Infographic

In The News

- CNBC -

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

- The New York Times -

“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…

- NPR -

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 parenting podcast.

- Scientific Inquirer -

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

- Spark & Stitch Institute -

“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…”

- University Business -

“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.”

- American Psychological Association -

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


Principal Investigators

Mimi Ito

UC Irvine

Collaborating Faculty

Jin Ha Lee headshot

Jin Ha Lee

University of Washington
Katie Salen headshot

Katie Salen

UC Irvine
Kurt Squire

Kurt Squire

UC Irvine
Tiera Tanksley

Tiera Tanksley

CU Boulder
Jason Yip headshot

Jason Yip

University of Washington


Maria Anderson-Coto

Graduate Student Researcher

Jennifer Cabrera

Graduate Student Researcher

Evan Conaway

Graduate Student Researcher

Remy Cross

Research Manager

Kelli Dickerson

Graduate Student Researcher

Maya Hernandez

Graduate Student Researcher

Benji Kaveladze

Graduate Student Researcher

Martha Neary

UC Irvine

Rose O'leary

Graduate Student Researcher




Subscribe to our newsletter