“Adolescents and the digital world: A double-edged sword”

by Dr Rachana Desai, Centre of Excellence in Human Development, WITS University

9 MAY 2022, 13:00-14:00 ONLINE Please use this link on Monday to join the meeting

For more information, please contact:

Dr B. Coetzee – or

Ms Sheena Naidoo –

Kindly note: This event is not CPD accredited

About the talk

The coronavirus outbreak in 2020 led to dramatic shifts in daily life, changing the way young people live, socialize, move around, and learn. Social distancing, home confinement, and school closure transformed the social context with the entire world moving into virtual neighbourhoods overnight. While access to the virtual environment has offered adolescents opportunities for connection, interaction and education, these environments come with potential risks. Fears around the influence that digital technologies have on young people’s lives, including their ability to interact with others in ‘real life’ and whether too much time on social media is contributing to poor health outcomes have received widespread public attention. Adolescence is a highly sensitive developmental period marking the onset of rapid pubertal, psychological and cognitive developmental processes along with complex changes in patterns of social behaviour. Shifts in the social context from offline to online, coupled with the dynamic psychological, cognitive, social, and biological changes of early adolescence, inform how young people navigate their digital and social worlds. My research aims to unpack how digital worlds enhance, harm, or influence adolescent development by using “state of the art” cognitive, psychological, social and environmental measures, as well as the voices of young people and their parent’s lived experiences from an adolescent cohort in South Africa. This study will contribute towards a better understanding of adolescent development in the context of an intensified virtual world, and strategies to mitigate the risks that an adolescent may encounter that could affect their long-term development.

About the presenter

I completed my PhD at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and I am currently a post-doc fellow at the Centre of Excellence in Human development at the University of the Witwatersrand. My current research activities seek to understand how young adolescents navigate their social and digital worlds against the backdrop of rapid urbanisation, technological advancements, a global pandemic, economic inequality, and violence. To understand the challenges facing young South Africans, I use storytelling and technology to capture their lived experiences.  My awards and accolades include being the recipient of several national grants, and I was a national finalist in one of the largest science communication competitions in the world, Famelab.