Youth mental health in the digital age: youth perspectives on the relationship between digital technology and their mental health




Boothroyd, Sydney J.H.

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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 well-being 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 as to how we can best support youth in the digital age. Situated within this debate, the current study establishes a theoretical basis as to the role digital technology plays in youth mental health. The study employs a qualitative methodology, including semi-structured interviewing and thematic analysis. Eight youth were interviewed and asked to share their experiences of the relationship between their devices and their well-being. Thematic findings highlight a conflictual relationship between digital technology use and youth mental health, affecting their relationships with others, themselves, and the world around them. Because digital technology consumption on this scale is so new, this is one of the first available cohorts of youth to actively participate in the exploration of this topic, offering their unique voices in ways that will benefit broader societal understandings of technology and mental health.



Youth Mental Health, Digital Technology, Qualitative Research, Semi-Structured Interviews, Thematic Analysis, COVID-19