Young people and scientists across 14 countries unite against problematic internet use

 14 May 2024 14 May 2024
14 May 2024

A groundbreaking new study led by the University of Hertfordshire is set to use smart technology to boost mental health and combat the growing burden of problematic use of the internet.

The BootStRaP project (Boosting Societal Adaptation and Mental Health in a Rapidly Digitalizing Post-Pandemic Europe), running across 14 countries, uses smart technology to address the risks of problematic internet use by young people.

A mobile app will be used to monitor the daily online activities of the young people involved in the study. This will then allow the project scientists to identify the risks and understand how they may lead to harm or poor health.

Professor Naomi Fineberg, project leader and professor of psychiatry at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The main goal of the project is to reduce the harmful effects of digitalisation on young people’s mental health. All of us in the project are eager to help parents, guardians, teachers and healthcare professionals better understand this growing problem and combat its effects.

“The online daily habits of young people will be investigated using a mobile app, with the young people themselves having been directly involved in co-creating it, as well as the research process of the study."

An estimated 10% to 17% of the global population is affected by problematic use of the internet. A range of online behaviours such as gaming, gambling, buying, pornography viewing, social networking, “cyber-bullying” and “cyberchondria” are known to cause problems for individuals and their families, owing to loss of control over online activity. Online gambling, gaming and compulsive sexual behaviour are as officially recognised mental health disorders by the World Health Organization.

Professor Dr Jose Menchon, a researcher leading the Societal and Policy Change working group in the project, said: "We are recruiting several thousand teenagers via schools across Europe to explore how they use the internet and how this relates to their wellbeing.

“We will then formulate guidelines for healthier internet use and determine how behavioural changes can reduce risks and prevent problematic usage of the internet from developing. We aim to deliver global policy recommendations to address problematic use of the internet based on robust scientific evidence“.

BootStRaP is funded by the Horizon Europe program, UK Research and Innovation program and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research, and Innovation.


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