New research will uncover the risk indicators of harmful internet use among teenagers

- Research

Dr Josep Manuel Menchon, group leader at IDIBELL and Head of Psychiatry Service at Bellvitge University Hospital, participates in a pioneering study led by the University of Hertfordshire (UK) to address and reduce the risks of harmful internet use among adolescents.

The Bootstrap project (Boosting Societal Adaptation and Mental Health in a Rapidly Digitalizing, Post-Pandemic Europe) is a new, Europe-wide study that will monitor how young people use the internet, understand which behaviours lead to harm and determine how these can be addressed.

Selected by Horizon Europe for a €7.5 million funding grant, the project is the first large-scale, standardised analysis of the impact of internet use on young people with such a broad and diverse range of participants. The results will be used to produce policy recommendations to address Problematic Use of the Internet (PUI) on an international scale.

Conducted using a specially-created phone app, researchers – led by Naomi Fineberg, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Hertfordshire and the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust – will monitor how thousands of volunteer teenagers from a broad range of European locations, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds and education systems, use the internet on a day-to day basis. The app will log factors including time of internet use, length of access, content viewed and how it is interacted with, for researchers to form an understanding of behavioural patterns and identify how they may lead to harm or poor health.

Participants will also be offered information on healthier ways of using the internet, to determine how changes in behaviour can move people out of the risk category and avoid future conditions associated with Problematic Use of the Internet (PUI)

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