Youth Mental Health in the Digital Age

New generations of youth are coming of age at a time when digital technology is omnipresent, where devices are our constant companions, extensions of ourselves. It is not yet fully known what effect this mass consumption of digital technology will have on current and future generations. Although not entirely negative, dramatic shifts in human interaction and well­being have already presented themselves, begging understanding. Among these shifts are rising rates of youth struggling with mental health – especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Various international and domestic governing bodies highlight the importance of this burgeoning field of research, turning in part to our technology-loaded ecosystems for answers. Early research has established associations between increased digital screen usage and youth mental ill-health. Questions remain, however and there exist large gaps in counselling psychology research and professional practice as to how we can best support youth in the digital age. This presentation seeks to fill these gaps, providing educators and practitioners with the latest skills, practices, and information with regard to adolescent screen use and their well-being.   

A recently published qualitative master’s thesis is presented, one that focused on centering youth perspectives to understand the relationship between youth screen use and their mental health. This presentation first highlights existing literature on the topic, then briefly discusses the current study’s method before diving into the important findings and implications for clinical practice. Because digital technology consumption on this scale is so new, this is one of the first available cohort of youth to actively participate in the exploration of the topic. Their unique voices are not only benefitting broader societal understandings of the impact constant screen use has on mental health, but the technical know-how of those directly supporting youth today. 

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12:15 PM - 1:45 PM

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  • University of Victoria
    Sydney Boothroyd

    Born in 1995, I straddle a significant generational divide. To a certain extent, I both know what it is like to live with and without digital technology. For example, to my cousin four years older than me, I am a digital native. Growing up together, he has always been amazed by the rate at which I ‘natively’ assumed digital technology. Compared to my brother who is only three years younger than me, however, I appear a digital immigrant. He and his peers’ breadth and depth of technological knowledge is staggering, and I constantly find myself asking questions and needing help. Never in human existence has a three-year age gap created such a divide not only in knowledge, but values, beliefs, lived experience, and worldview. The implications of this for supporting my own mental health led me to wonder how we can best support young people’s mental health in and amongst all-consuming tech.

    I am just wrapping up my MA in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria, studying just this: the effects of digital technology on youth mental health, exploring the relationship between screen-time and child and adolescent well-being. I am passionate about finding the best ways to support young people struggling with mental health in this digital age – as we begin to piece together the impact of screens and tech on human relationships and mental health. In addition to research and coursework, I have completed clinical pracitca with both Child and Youth Mental Health at the Ministry of Child and Family Development and Family Services of Greater Victoria. With a deep understanding and appreciation for the unique obstacles youth face today, I am passionate about supporting young people through both research and clinical practice.

    I have presented my preliminary research at SD61’s Professional Development Day in November 2020, as well as UVic academics in the Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies department. It will be defended and published by this August, 2021.