Digital Media and Youth Mental Health: “It Just Takes over Everything”
Research was conducted with Aboriginal, immigrant, rural, and ‘in risk’ youth (16-20 years of age) in Canada, Scotland, and Australia to examine the impact of technology on young lives. Innovative qualitative methods including in-depth interviews, dyadic interviewing of participants and their ‘digital shadows,’ and social media data capture were used to create digital profiles of participants. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify data specifically relevant to mental health.
Speaking with young people about their experiences with digital media reveals both anticipated and unexpected connections between technology use and mental health. Young people are struggling to balance their ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ selves/lives, to manage the pressures of constant connectedness, and to master new forms of interpersonal communication. Increased clarity about the contradictions youth themselves experience will enhance program and policy development in media and mental health literacies, as well as interventions addressing mental health promotion, mental illness prevention/treatment, and stigma.