Over the course of a two-day, virtual research retreat on May 24th and 25th, 2021, more than 120 international, interdisciplinary researchers, clinicians, and government agency representatives met to discuss the impacts of digital media on children’s mental health. The group bridged the fields of psychology, psychiatry, communication, medicine, neuroscience, social work, public health, data science, addiction treatment, and pediatrics, and proposed a comprehensive national research agenda around mental health, young people, and digital media use, identifying what is so compelling about digital media, how these tools impact mental health, and where more study is critically needed. Titled Digital Media And Mental Health, the retreat offered a kaleidoscopic view of the many ways digital media and young people’s mental health outcomes interact, and what can be done to address these concerns from a holistic perspective.

“Children and Screens convened this first-of-its-kind mental health summit to bring together the experts in the fields of child development, mental health, and screen media to better understand the complex associations between young people’s use of digital media and their mental health. I am pleased that, as a result, a critical research agenda has been established that will chart the course of scientific inquiry for years to come.” – Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder, Children and Screens.

Overarching themes of the retreat included an acknowledgement that there is no doubt that young people’s mental health is in a fragile position; this has only been exacerbated by a year of social distancing, virtual school, online extracurricular activities, social unrest, and health crises. Digital media have a unique role in both contributing to and ameliorating mental health concerns for children and adolescents, though the nuances of these associations are yet to be fully understood. It is critical to understand how children are managing their time online, which children are most susceptible to its negative influences, how the screen time is affecting engagement with siblings and families, and how factors like content, context, and quantity of screen time impact these associations.

Detailed findings from Digital Media And Mental Health will be published in one or more white papers in the coming months, outlining the state of the science, where we must go next, and concrete ideas for new research on these topics. Children and Screens is announcing the opportunity for participants to apply for $100,000 worth of seed funding for novel, objective, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research to implement the research agenda discussed.