Research Topic

Digital Media and Social Connection in the Lives of Children, Adolescents and Families

About this Research Topic

The editors of this Research Topic seek contributions from diverse disciplines that reflect on the ways that digital and mobile media - including visual social media - are impacting children’s and young people’s sense of connection, belonging and wellbeing. We especially invite manuscripts that examine the implications of youths’ increased reliance on digital/online contexts for all facets of their lives in light of social distancing and lockdowns, which were needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In the early years of mobile technology, children and young people used their devices to primarily communicate via short message service (SMS) texts. Such text-based communication was initially theorized to be impoverished and impersonal (Culnan & Markus, 1987) in comparison to face-to-face communication. Since then, advances in bandwidth, and the full integration of the camera and the smartphone, have intensified photo and video sharing practices, producing a visual turn in users’ mediated communication practices. Newer social media such as Snapchat and TikTok permit quick and easy ways for adolescents to connect, and they use these platforms to connect during a developmental stage when peers are critical.

Research is needed to understand how contemporary social media platforms and products are implicated in supporting and/or undermining young people’s social connections. On the one hand, for example, it is argued that the ability for 24/7 social surveillance via visual social media could lead to more anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO) and a sense of exclusion. On the other hand, some scholars have argued that it can lead to closer social bonds, better emotional understanding and empathy, decreased loneliness and increased happiness and life satisfaction. Research questions could include: How are these media implicated in new meanings and practices of connection and belonging? Further, given that social connection is a key determinant of wellbeing, how do digital modes of communication impact digital wellness and health? To what extent can digital media support positive social connection across online and offline spaces, and thereby foster wellbeing?

Against the backdrop of concerns about the effects of social media and mobile technology on social and emotional learning, people often forget that technology is constantly evolving. Accordingly, as platforms develop and transform, it is likely their impact on social learning will also change. There is thus an urgent need to consider how emergent digital affordances impact young people’s wellbeing, and to develop rigorous evidence to underpin initiatives to support young people and their families to maximise the benefits of visual social media into the future.

This Research Topic seeks articles informed by interdisciplinary approaches addressed to these research questions from the fields of communication, cultural studies, sociology, psychology, pediatrics, human/computer interaction and related fields. We are interested in papers that use a range of research methodologies to generate empirical, theoretical and review-based (e.g. meta analytic) papers. We particularly encourage manuscript submissions that are innovative, which draw on research conducted with diverse young people, and whose findings can be leveraged to support and promote the healthy development of children, young people and their families.


Keywords: media, technology, adolescents, social connection, children


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The editors of this Research Topic seek contributions from diverse disciplines that reflect on the ways that digital and mobile media - including visual social media - are impacting children’s and young people’s sense of connection, belonging and wellbeing. We especially invite manuscripts that examine the implications of youths’ increased reliance on digital/online contexts for all facets of their lives in light of social distancing and lockdowns, which were needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In the early years of mobile technology, children and young people used their devices to primarily communicate via short message service (SMS) texts. Such text-based communication was initially theorized to be impoverished and impersonal (Culnan & Markus, 1987) in comparison to face-to-face communication. Since then, advances in bandwidth, and the full integration of the camera and the smartphone, have intensified photo and video sharing practices, producing a visual turn in users’ mediated communication practices. Newer social media such as Snapchat and TikTok permit quick and easy ways for adolescents to connect, and they use these platforms to connect during a developmental stage when peers are critical.

Research is needed to understand how contemporary social media platforms and products are implicated in supporting and/or undermining young people’s social connections. On the one hand, for example, it is argued that the ability for 24/7 social surveillance via visual social media could lead to more anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO) and a sense of exclusion. On the other hand, some scholars have argued that it can lead to closer social bonds, better emotional understanding and empathy, decreased loneliness and increased happiness and life satisfaction. Research questions could include: How are these media implicated in new meanings and practices of connection and belonging? Further, given that social connection is a key determinant of wellbeing, how do digital modes of communication impact digital wellness and health? To what extent can digital media support positive social connection across online and offline spaces, and thereby foster wellbeing?

Against the backdrop of concerns about the effects of social media and mobile technology on social and emotional learning, people often forget that technology is constantly evolving. Accordingly, as platforms develop and transform, it is likely their impact on social learning will also change. There is thus an urgent need to consider how emergent digital affordances impact young people’s wellbeing, and to develop rigorous evidence to underpin initiatives to support young people and their families to maximise the benefits of visual social media into the future.

This Research Topic seeks articles informed by interdisciplinary approaches addressed to these research questions from the fields of communication, cultural studies, sociology, psychology, pediatrics, human/computer interaction and related fields. We are interested in papers that use a range of research methodologies to generate empirical, theoretical and review-based (e.g. meta analytic) papers. We particularly encourage manuscript submissions that are innovative, which draw on research conducted with diverse young people, and whose findings can be leveraged to support and promote the healthy development of children, young people and their families.


Keywords: media, technology, adolescents, social connection, children


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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