A metaphor to consider
Humans are not so unlike flowers. Some are more sensitive. Some less so. These differences aren’t just a sub-plot; they are the story.
Some flowers require just the right amount of sunlight and water to fully bloom. Others will bloom even when sunshine and rain are scarce.
Just as different flowers react to weather conditions in different ways, people respond to the same digital experiences in different ways (a concept called differential susceptibility).
Research with teens reveals how much individual differences impact digital well-being. If digital thriving is the goal, teens’ unique strengths and vulnerabilities, identities and contexts cannot be overlooked.
Even if all teens spent the same amount of time browsing the same content, they’d be affected in different ways.
Teens don’t all browse the same content, though. And this further amplifies differences in their experiences.
Consider two teens who are both prone to comparing themselves to others. One follows Influencers who share encouraging messages about self-acceptance; the other gets pulled in by algorithms that serve up a stream of images that play into insecurity.
Understanding the differences among teens, their lives and their tech use is essential. By carefully – and compassionately – paying attention to individual differences, we can create supports that enable everyone to digitally thrive.