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Building Robust Evidence-Based Policy for Children in the Digital Age

Building Robust Evidence-Based Policy for Children in the Digital Age


The amount of time young British youth spend online has doubled in the last decade. As the ubiquity of social media and digital screens has increased, so too have concerns their use might negatively influence psychosocial development and children’s well-being. Currently, the U.K.’s public policy regarding these concerns is in flux. In line with the Digital Economy Act of 2017, governmental departments including the Department of Health & Social Care, select committees, and civil servants are now setting regulatory priorities to shape children’s digital use in the next decade. However, many consequential policy decisions are being taken based on low quality or no evidence. Directly addressing this critical gap between research and policy, this project seeks to improve fundamentally the evidence stakeholders will depend on when crafting youth technology policy in the UK. This focusses on three main research questions.

RQ1: How does access and use of digital technologies relate to child and adolescent well-being?

This question seeks to determine the extent to which access to, and engagement with, digital technologies predicts well-being outcomes in direct cross-sectional and cross-lagged models.

RQ2: What embodiments of technology and child characteristics shape technology effects on young people?

This question seeks to identify the key aspects of digital technologies, and the young people who use them, that influence the extent to which digital technologies have positive, negative, or null effects on well-being over the longer term.

RQ3: What are the key family and community factors that shape technology effects on young people?

On the basis of theory, policy, and the extant literature, this question investigates promising caregiver- family- and community-level characteristics that might moderate, or catalyze, the effects of digital technology.

Key Information

  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Project dates:
    September 2018 - February 2020

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