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Technology and digital media are changing young people’s lives, with an exponential increase in use and access among this group. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences launches a research priority area in 'Youth Digitality' that will stimulate the interdisciplinary research in this field for a period of five years with an annual budget of 250,000 euros.

RPA Youth Digitality

There is a critical need to better understand how young people are shaped by the digital world and how they navigate the intricate connections between the offline and online world, digital platforms, and their interactions with society and others in the digital context. The RPA Youth Digitality is designed to address this need by studying development of youth within various contexts related to digitality. These contexts include family, peer, and educational settings. The research encompasses the developmental journey from infancy to emerging adulthood, exploring the intricate interplay between this development and Technology-Driven Media (TDM). The RPA reflects an inter-faculty collaboration between Pedagogics Communication Science, and Psychology at the Faculty of Social & Behavioral Sciences. The project runs from January 2023 through January 2028.

The primary aim of the RPA Youth Digitality is to gain insight into the ways in which digital environments affect the development of young people, exploring the how, why, and when behind these impacts. In doing so, the RPA also aims identify how youth can effectively and healthily utilize digital environments to cultivate resilience and ultimately flourish.

The RPA Youth Digitality is built with three pillars in mind – Digital Development, Digitality in Schools, and Digital Wellbeing. In addition to a longer term cohort study that taps into each of these pillars, a primary anchor point of each pillar is a 4-year PhD project.

Our Themes
  • Digital development—uncovering digital media use patterns, mechanisms, and effects

    PhD Project Title: Adolescents, mixed-reality applications, and trust. Assessing use, effects, and over-time development

    Research on adolescents and social media has grown, yet it overlooks a vital trend: adolescents' use of mixed-reality applications such as augmented-reality filters and deepfakes. While this development is considered a pressing issue, we know little about adolescents’ use of such applications, potential effects and underlying mechanisms, and their possible change over times. Importantly, it is not well understood whether the modification of visual information in mixed-reality applications affects interpersonal and systemic trust. To address this gap, we have four aims: 1) explore adolescent use and experience with mixed-reality applications, 2) study effects on trust and reveal underlying mechanisms, 3) identify social, developmental, and individual moderating factors, and 4) offer a longitudinal perspective on adolescents’ use of mixed-reality applications and their effects, focusing also on within-person change, and to investigate developmental differences. We will use cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys and experimental designs. The findings hold significance for digital citizenship, benefiting policymakers, parents, and educators.

    Committee Members: Jochen Peter, Eva van Reijmersdal, Remmert Daas, Helle Larsen 
    PhD Student: Weiqi Tian

  • Digitality in schools—improving learning without Increasing the digital divide

    PhD Project Title: Joint relations of digital literacy, time use and academic performance in primary and secondary education

    In the digital age, digital literacy is a prerequisite for learning primary academic skills. Youths’ engagement in digital activities might facilitate the development of digital literacy, and in turn benefit the development of academic skills. However, engagement in digital activities can also leave less time for other activities that may contribute to academic development such as sleeping sufficiently, studying, and reflecting. Our research aims to investigate this complex reciprocal relation between digital-literacy development, academic development, and time use with state-of-the-art longitudinal approaches (i.e., three-wave cohort survey, ecological momentary assessment study). To measure digital literacy we will construct an adaptive maximum-performance test. We will also develop a method for modelling and measuring students’ time use. Our final goal is to implement our developed digital-literacy test and time-use measures in an online attractive gaming environment, which allows students to practice their digital-literacy skills.

    Committee Members: Andries van der Ark, Brenda Jansen, Minh Hao Nguyen, Bieke Schreurs 
    PhD Student: Goan Booij

  • Digitality and well-being—harnessing the power of digitality for youth

    Project title: Empowering vulnerable youth to use social media as an information source on their  mental health issues

    The prevalence of anxiety- and depression-related complaints in adolescents and emerging     adults has risen over the last decade, but youth face barriers when seeking professional help. Many therefore rely on social media for mental health information. Online short videos (OSVs) are a new form of online health information, which may come with risks and benefits for susceptible adolescents and emerging adults (e.g., misinformation and accessible    psychoeducation respectively).
    In this project, we aim to understand to what extent, under which circumstances, and for whom mental health information in OSVs may be beneficial or detrimental. We will explore the information needs and mental health-related OSV consumption of adolescents and emerging  adults with anxiety- and depression-related complaints, and how their OSV consumption is related to their well-being. These findings will be used to develop and test a brief intervention to improve mental well-being.

    Committee Members: Bram Orobio de Castro, Melanie de Looper, Eva van Reijmersdal, Eline Smit
    PhD Student: Mieke Oldeman

Our Impact

We aim to engage various stakeholders, including youths, parents, school staff, and mental health professionals through dedicated "soundboards." These soundboards serve as platforms for receiving both requested and spontaneous feedback. They play a crucial role in shaping research plans, introducing new inquiries derived from practical experience, reflecting on research outcomes, and collaboratively developing implementation strategies. Additionally, the soundboards act as ambassadors for Youth Digitality, responsible for disseminating, transferring, and valorizing the research results generated by the project into practical settings.

The daily management of the RPA Youth Digitality is coordinated by a Management Board of 5 Principal Investigators, each bringing in different experience from a participating department in the FMG.

Youth Digitality Management Board
  • dr. Helle Larsen

    Helle Larsen is Associate Professor in the Psychology Research Institute, Developmental Psychology, at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). She specializes in social and cognitive aspects of (un)healthy behaviors and mental health among adolescents and young adults. Focusing on behaviors like excessive smartphone use, social media use, and addiction she investigates the intricate interplay between social context (peers, parents, digital environment) and individual factors (motivation, self-regulation) bridging developmental psychology with insights from medical, communication, and methodological fields. She leads initiatives like RPA Youth Digitality, Mental Health, Youth, and Society (Summer School, UvA), and is chairing Dutch Society for Developmental Psychology (VNOP).

    Dr. H. (Helle) Larsen

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group Developmental Psychology

  • Prof. Geertjan Overbeek

    Geertjan Overbeek is a Professor in the Research Institute Child Development and Education (RICDE) at the at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His main expertise focuses on child and adolescent social development. In particular, Geertjan is interested in how parent and peer contexts influence—and are influenced by—child and adolescent developmental processes. Because increasingly, young people's lives are lived online and through various digital media, this holds consequences for their relationships with parents and peers as well. Geertjan is interested in looking at specific affordances and intervention potential of social media and online contexts for specific groups youths.

    Prof. dr. G.J. (Geertjan) Overbeek

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Preventive Youth Care

  • Prof. Jessica Piotrowski

    Jessica Piotrowski is a Professor in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) where she holds the Chair Communication in the Digital Society. As a media psychologist, Piotrowski focuses on identifying risk factors, resiliency factors, and enhancement factors that allow youth to be(come) engaged digital citizens. Piotrowski led the development of the first psychometrically-validated measure of digital competence (DigIQ) and is a leading expert on the integration of digital technology in the lives of young people, with current research investigating digital sleep health, (dis-)connected solitude, and virtual assistant accommodation. 

    Prof. J. (Jessica) Piotrowski

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    CW : Youth & Media Entertainment

  • dr. Bieke Schreurs

    Bieke Schreurs is an assistant professor in the Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) where she coordinates the research lab Technology and Innovation for Learning. As an educational scientist she focuses her research on factors related to the acceptance, design, implementation, scale-up and sustainability of technology enhanced learning solutions in education. She is also involved as an expert in national and international projects related to the measurement of digital literacy skills of children. She is interested in investigating how schools can organize education differently and effectively with the help of digital tools as a reaction to the global teacher shortage problem. 

    Dr. B.G.M. (Bieke) Schreurs

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Educational Sciences

  • dr. Eline Smit

    Eline Smit is Associate Professor Health Communication in the Persuasive Communication research group at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). She is specialised in digital and tailored health communication and has an extensive trackrecord of peer-reviewed articles and grants for research projects in this field, with projects focusing on lifestyle and mental health related behaviours, e.g., physical activity and sleep. She is the chair of the EHPS (European Health Psychology Society) special interest group on Digital Health, serves as the vice-director and secretary of the Amsterdam Center for Health Communication (, and is PhD mentor at ASCoR.

    Dr. E.S. (Eline) Smit

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    CW : Persuasive Communication

Given the emphasis on intra-faculty collaboration, the Management Board is further supported by a host of Associated PIs. Several of these Associated PIs serve on the projects doctoral committees, while others participate in the shaping and scholarship in our cohort study. They also serve as brainstorm and dissemination partners, helping ensure that the RPA Youth Digitality achieves its aims.

  • Youth Digitality Associated PIs
    • Wouter van den Bos
    • Reinout Wiers
    • Hilde Huizenga
    • Brenda Jansen
    • Patty Leijten
    • Bram Orobio de Castro
    • Van den Akker
    • Machteld Hoeve
    • Eddie Brummelman 
    • Frank Cornelissen
    • Carla Van Boxtel
    • Marrit Van de Guchte
    • Lisa Gaikhorst
    • Monique Volman
    • Patti Valkenburg
    • Jochen Peter
    • Julia Van Weert
    • Eva Van Reijmersdal
    • Christin Scholz
    • Monique Alblas


To contact the RPA Youth Digitality team, please email