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Digital and interactive technologies for children's mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing: Exploring potential, gaps, and design opportunities

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This dissertation delves into the potential of digital and interactive technologies to address the mental health and socio-emotional challenges faced by children, especially in the context of ongoing crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. With the pervasive influence of technology in children's lives and the lack of adequate support during times of crisis, it becomes crucial to explore how digital and interactive technologies can effectively fill the gaps and cater to the mental health and socio-emotional needs of children. Through a scoping review that draws on research across various domains and a two-phase co-design study investigating the potential of digital health platforms to support young individuals, this research advances our understanding of designing and implementing technology-based interventions for children's mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing while uncovering gaps and future research opportunities. This research significantly contributes to the development of evidence-based digital and interactive technologies for addressing the increasing demands of youth mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing. The three primary contributions can be summarized as follows and are presented in the dissertation in a cumulative format. First, the dissertation provides valuable insights into the integration of diverse principles, strategies, and approaches within technological interventions to support children's mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing. It offers insights on theoretical frameworks and practical implementation that guide design and assessment methods for evaluating feasibility, engagement, and effectiveness. Second, the research fills gaps in remote co-design research and presents a scaffolded approach for reflecting and ideating around subjective experiences involving emotions, feelings, and thoughts. This approach is increasingly relevant in a post-Covid world, where understanding the needs of diverse and hard-to-reach youth populations is essential for creating ecologically valid and population-relevant supports. Lastly, a two-phase exploratory co-design study involving children, parents, teachers, and industry experts investigates under-researched digital health platforms, shedding light on opportunities to support youth and their unmet mental health and socio-emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic. These findings demonstrate the potential of digital or hybridized digital health platforms, like private social networks, to extend reach and support. Overall, this thesis contributes to the understanding of how digital and interactive technologies can support children and youth with mental health and socio-emotional related needs. It underscores the interdisciplinary nature of this research area and design space, provides insights into remotely facilitated co-design studies, and presents design opportunities for future digital and interactive technologies. The findings emphasize the importance of leveraging technology to address the evolving needs of children and youth, fostering their mental health and socio-emotional wellbeing in a rapidly changing world.
241 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: N., Antle, Alissa
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