Digital Media and Young Lives over Time: International and Cultural Comparisons

STATUS: Complete (2012-2019)


This project sought to identify and understand the long term impacts of technology on the lives of young people in Canada, Scotland, and Australia. This interdisciplinary and cross cultural study focused on Aboriginal, immigrant, rural, and “in risk” youth.


Young people are in social transition to adulthood in digital economies. Their use of digital media has been well documented, but the long term impacts of digital media are under-studied and paradoxical. Little scholarly work has attended to digital media and the four demographics listed above. Working with Dr. John Smyth, of the University of Ballarat in Australia, and Dr. Andy Furlong, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, Dr. Tilleczek studied youth and adults in three distinct global locations over a five-year period.


The study sought to richly describe the impact of technology on young lives over time. Important questions to be explored include: for whom and how do digital media help or hinder transitions to adulthood? How is digital media involved in youth agency, resistance, and constraint? Is an emerging form of cultural/social capital arising from digital literacy?

Documentary films following the team’s research bring parents, educators, policy makers, service providers, academics, and young people into conversation about digital media and young lives. This project augments policy and practice relating to technology and young lives, and positions Canada centrally in this emerging area of study.


Progress Report

The Preliminary Summary of Results (July 2017) outlines how the Digital Media study works, with whom we spoke, the data we collected, some early themes from what we are learning, and the various ways we disseminated preliminary results.

Book Chapter

Tilleczek, K., & Srigley, R. (2017). Young cyborgs? Youth in the digital age. In A. Furlong (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood (2nd ed., pp. 273-284). Routledge: New York, NY.

White Papers

Loebach, J., & Madigan, R. (2015). Collecting Social Media Data for Qualitative Research (Research Shorts Series #2). Charlottetown, PE: Young Lives Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island.

Bell, B.L., & Campbell, V. (2014). Dyadic Interviews in qualitative research (Research Shorts Series #1). Charlottetown, PE: Young Lives Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island.

Digital Media & Mental Health

Data from the Digital Media project has been used for two presentations on the topic of digital media and youth mental health: The International Association for Youth Mental Health (IAYMH) Conference (2015); and The Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research Annual (CAHSPR) Conference (2017).

  • 1
    IAYMH: This presentation had two objectives:  (1) To provide an overview of the international social-science literature examining digital media and youth mental health, outlining the scope and themes with respect to both the challenges and opportunities that technology offers, and (2) To richly describe the impact of technology on young lives, particularly with respect to youth mental health. Thematic analysis was conducted on Canadian youth transcripts from the Digital Media project to identify data specifically relevant to mental health.
  • 2
    CAHSPR: This poster presentation incorporated data from both the Digital Media and ACCESS-MH projects. From the Digital Media project, we built from the thematic analysis conducted previously and presented this in conversation with thematic results from the ACCESS-MH project. See the CAHSPR poster here.