EventMay 19 2021

Unseen Teens: The Challenges of Building Healthy Tech For Young People

Amanda Lenhart, Charlotte Willner, Aden Van Noppen

Databite No. 143

At social media and gaming companies, the user is the constant focus — at least in theory. How to get them to use this platform more? To stay longer? To come back tomorrow? Attention and resources are poured into answering these questions throughout the industry. That same attention and those same resources are not, however, put toward the well-being of a major group of their users: young people.

Data & Society’s new report, The Unseen Teen: The Challenges of Building Healthy Tech for Young People, investigates how social platform companies think about and design for young people and their health and digital well-being. Based on a multi-year, qualitative research project interviewing social media and social gaming company workers in a variety of roles, we learned that many companies struggle to imagine and design for the breadth of their users, especially minors. Instead by focusing on averages, and limited quantitative metrics, tech companies miss the nuance in differential impacts that has real consequences for real people. We discuss the report, our recommendations, and the real world implications of our findings on those entrusted to help companies think about the well-being of their youngest users.

About the Speakers

Amanda Lenhart studies how technology affects human lives, with a special focus on families and children. A quantitative and qualitative researcher, Amanda is the Health + Data Research Lead at the Data & Society Research Institute. Over decades, she has examined how adolescents and their families use and think about technology, how young adults consume news, how harassment has thrived in online spaces, and how automation will impact workers. Most recently, as deputy director of the Better Life Lab at New America, Amanda focused on the ways technology affects workers’ jobs and lives, as well as the family-supportive policies that enable balance between the personal and the professional. She began her career at the Pew Research Center, studying how teens and families use social and mobile technologies.

Charlotte Willner is the Founding Executive Director of the Trust & Safety Professional Association (TSPA) and the Trust & Safety Foundation after fourteen years of working in trust and safety operations. She began her career at Facebook, where she led international user support, then built out their first safety operations team. She went on to build and lead Pinterest’s trust and safety operations team, overseeing online safety, law enforcement response, and intellectual property matters. She holds a degree in English from Bowdoin College and is delighted to show you that this is, in fact, what you can do with an English degree.

Aden Van Noppen is the Founder and Executive Director of Mobius, an unconventional collective of technologists, scientists, activists, and spiritual teachers working together to create a world in which technology brings out the best in humanity. She was a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Obama White House Office, where she developed the led programs that leverage tech as a tool for social and economic justice. After that, she spent a year as a Resident Fellow at Harvard Divinity School focusing on the intersection of tech, ethics and spirituality and was an affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Aden was also part of the founding leadership team of The Sanctuaries, the first interfaith arts community in the country. Her work has been featured in the New Yorker, The New York Times, WIRED, and elsewhere.

Joan Mukogosi and Iretiolu Akinrinaderesearch assistants on the Data & Society Health and Data team, provided invaluable support to the production of this event. They work at the intersection of identity, technology, and health.  Their work seeks to uplift the experiences of young people.


About Databites

Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.

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