Our researchers

Sonia Livingstone (LSE), Edmund Sonuga-Barke (KCL), Mariya Stoilova (LSE )Jake Bourgaize (Kings College London), Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne (KCL), Eliz Azeri (Kings College London) 

Dynamic Interplay of Online Risk and Resilience in Adolescence (DIORA)  

A multi-method study of the mental health risks and benefits of digital technology use

This project explores young people’s online experiences and their relationship to changes in mental health. 

Research highlights adolescent digital engagement either as a mental health risk or as a source of support or resilience. However, the ways in which digital engagement has its effects during adolescence, either positive or negative, remain poorly understood. 

Many questions remain. Do different mental health conditions lead to different patterns of digital engagement or exposure to risks or benefits? What aspects of digital engagement contribute to different mental health outcomes? 

To address these issues, in DIORA we research young people with two different mental health conditions, self-harm and eating disorders, to identify the potential negative and positive effects of digital engagement.  

Research questions 

  • Do adolescents’ digital and non-digital activities/experiences impact on their mental health over a 6-month period and/or vice versa?
  • Are these effects mediated by their short-term impacts on psychological and emotional states?
  • Are these relationships moderated by adolescents’ personal characteristics or circumstances?
  • Do these processes and effects differ for digital and non-digital (face-to-face) experiences?

The popular media is full of claims about the way adolescents use the internet and how this impacts their mental health, seemingly backed up by research evidence. However, a lot of that evidence is cross-sectional in nature which means that we can’t say whether it is the internet use that drives mental health or mental health states that drive internet use. This makes sensible intervention to improve mental health impossible. DIORA will answer this vital question!

Prof Edmund Sonuga-Barke


It is time to understand the role played by “digital engagement” in the emotional lives and mental health of adolescents, so that policymakers and practitioners can tailor their support effectively. Our project will pay close attention to the interplay between mood and digital activities among young people struggling with eating disorders and self-harm. Does going online help or hinder – and when and why? We aim to find out.

Prof Sonia Livingstone


Project partners

King's College London