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Digital traces in adolescence well-being predictions

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2019
Department: Centre for Contemporary Childhood Research
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research

Theoretical and methodological base development for the study of the well-being of children and adolescents, identification of approaches and tools for analyzing well-being using automatically collected data (digital traces).

Methodology

Questionnaires, the open data from the social network Vkontakte

Empirical base of research

To study the patterns of individual well-being, we used data from an online survey (2125 participants) and open data from a social network.

To study the structure of social relationships, we used open data from a social network (about 37 thousands persons).

Results of research

The potential of using automatically collected data to predict individual well-being is shown. The factors that influence the individual well-being of children and adolescents, including factors generated by digital technologies, are described. It is shown that well-being is a complex multiplex concept, which is influenced by various nonlinear and differentiated effects of various events and characteristics. Moreover, digital technologies can have both positive and negative impacts on the individual well-being of children and adolescents. It is indicated that both the deficit and the excess time for using digital technologies negatively affect the indicators of well-being. The risks of using digital technologies by children and adolescent are described.

The theory of generations, developed by Strauss and Howe, often used to study modern adolescents and youth, is considered. A meta-analysis of empirical studies is carried out, and the results of empirical work and theoretical predictions are compared. It is shown that in the vast majority of cases, empirical studies do not confirm the conclusions and predictions of the theory of generations. Empirical evidences suggest that the specificity of behavior described in the theory of generations is typical either for adolescence, regardless of whether the adolescent belongs to a certain “generation”, or for all people living in a given time period. The results obtained indicate a low explanatory power of the theory of generations.

The study explored the possibilities of using empirical data on digital footprints to study individual well-being. Elements of digital footprints correlated with indicators of well-being are described. A number of approaches have been proposed that allow us to analyze the relationship between digital footprints and the level of individual well-being (in this case, the severity of symptoms of depression, evaluated on a PHQ-8 scale, was evaluated as a well-being indicator). It is proposed to consider the sentiment analysis of the user's posts on the social media platform, the structure and size of his friendship network, the user's popularity. It was revealed that different digital markers can be used for different social groups as identifiers of well-being and troubling behaviour. In particular, it was shown that women are characterized by a higher severity of symptoms of depression (according to the PHQ-8 scale). It is also shown that high emotionality is not typical for people with a high severity of symptoms of depression.

In addition, the results of the study of social connections in the Vkontakte network of students from various schools. Based on a large amount of data from open profiles of the Vkontakte social network (about 37 thousand users), the phenomenon of the formation of connections between students in different schools was analyzed. The results of the study showed that students from different schools are connected in the case of the proximity of the two schools, as well as the academic proximity of the results of the schools. This indicates the formation of new forms of social inequality, reproducing already in the digital space. Contrary to the notions of the high potential of digital media to reduce social inequality, the results indicate the formation of social segregation based on academic achievements in the online environment.

Publications: