This follows an agreement for funding from the Huo Family Foundation, a charitable organisation which supports the arts and education.  The three-year research programme aims to scientifically investigate the widely held assumptions that the overall mental health of young people is undergoing a period of decline, which some experts and commentators argue may be driven by digital technologies.

In this new programme of research Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and his team aims to address some of the big issues facing parents, carers and childcare professionals alike in the ongoing debate surrounding children’s wellbeing and the link between their digital lives on their mental health.

Key questions set to be explored in this latest OII research include:

  • Has there actually been clinically significant decreases in adolescent wellbeing in the last decade? And if so, which young people have experienced significant declines?
  • Are shifts, possibly both increases and decreases, consistent between technologically saturated and developing nations?
  • Do these shifts in wellbeing meaningfully align with technological events and the reduction of mental health stigma in different cultures?

The research will draw, translate and harmonise big data on technology and mental health, drawn from multinational sources across recent decades.  The data will be compiled and statistically modelled to test overall comparative and technology related trends.

This will build on previous work by OII academics Amy Orben, a Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and College Lecturer at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford and Professor Przybylski, which used novel and transparent statistical approaches to show that technology use explains modest variation in adolescent wellbeing. This research, published this year in Nature Human BehaviourPsychological Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences made headlines because it, for the first time, put the potential short- and longer-term effects of ‘screen time’ in a context easily understood by scientists, parents, and policymakers alike.

Professor Przybylski, who will lead this research, said: “We’re delighted to receive the support of the Huo Family Foundation to enable us to carry out further research into adolescent wellbeing and examine the shifts across different cultures.  With technology now such an integral part of our daily lives and increasingly so for adolescents, it’s crucial we understand what’s driving these shifts in wellbeing and whether technology is a consistent underlying factor across all nations.”

The Trustees of the Huo Family Foundation, said: “We are glad to support the Oxford Internet Institute in this new endeavour to understand the impact of technology on young people. It is our hope that with this programme the OII team will be able to make real headway in determining the nature of the relationship between our youth’s mental health and their digital lives.”

The new research project will run between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2022.

For more information please contact press@oii.ox.ac.uk or call +44 (0)1865 287 210.

Previous work published by Amy Orben and Andrew Przbylski includes: