The Nurture Network: Promoting Mental Health for Young People in a Digital World (e-Nurture)

Gordon Harold (University of Sussex, PI), Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics, Co-I), Elvira Perez-Vallejoz (University of Nottingham (Co-I), Edmund Sonuga-Barke (Kings College London, Co-I), Tamsin Ford (University of Exeter, Co-I), Chris Hollis (University of Nottingham, Co-I)

The e-Nurture Network launch took place on November 30th 2018 in London, UK. This multidisciplinary research network aims to look at how children and young people are influenced by a digital world, and consider the challenges and opportunities that digital environments present.

During the event, principle Investigator, Professor Gordon Harold (University of Sussex) perceptively reframed the age-old nature/nurture debate from the point of view of our contemporary digital era. From a developmental perspective, one could ask whether this is old wine new bottles, but it is much more than that. Children and young people are growing cognitively, emotionally and socially within environments that we know and understand relatively little about. Nowadays, as digital environments increasingly make their presence felt in everyday family and school life, new challenges and opportunities for facilitating positive mental health for children are in our midst: digital environments now constitute a new dimension to the agencies of socialisation that research previously considered primary (parents, siblings, teachers, peers), and comprise a new social space that will equally influence children’s social development and mental health.

The primary objective of the multi-disciplinary e-Nurture network is to explore how such /environments impact mental health and wellbeing. More specifically, the network aims to (1) explore how the digital environment has changed the ways in which children experience and interact with family, school and peer-based influences and what these changes mean for children’s mental health, (2) identify how we can recognise and disentangle digital risks from opportunities when working with families, schools and professional agencies in developing intervention programmes to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people, and (3) identify how we effectively incorporate and disseminate this new knowledge to engage present and future practice models and the design and development of digital platforms and interventions aimed at promoting mental health and reducing negative mental health trajectories for young people.

The e-Nurture Network will engage a collaborative, cross sectoral approach to facilitating impacts by directly engaging academic, charity, industry, policy and front-line beneficiaries (e.g. families, parents, schools, teachers, children and young people).

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