The Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and the Wellesley College Computer Science Department recently hosted a free virtual workshop for middle school girls on designing healthier social media experiences. The five-day program allowed students to co-design an app to promote positive social media use and featured Wellesley College students and expert speakers on STEM.
“Over the course of the week, these students learned to examine the role of technology in their lives and became digital innovators,” said Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., a co-leader of the workshop, senior research scientist at WCW, and director of the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab. “It was exciting to hear their ideas and see how they would develop prototypes for more positive and authentic connections on social media.”
I loved listening to the two panelists—they really broadened my perspective of what jobs were available to women in STEM, and it was really inspiring to see how they combined digital wellbeing with their jobs
Running from July 11-15, 2022, the workshop was sponsored by WCW and the Wellesley College Summer Research Internship program. It had three main components: 1) reflection activities to explore how to address emotional and mental health, self-image, and social relationships online; 2) app co-design and STEM activities for imagining positive social media experiences; and 3) interactive small and whole group learning experiences featuring Wellesley College students as co-facilitators as well as expert speakers on app design, digital citizenship, and wellbeing.
Speakers included WCW Research Scientist LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D., founder of Black Girls Create; Social Emotional Learning Expert Kamilah Drummond-Forrester; and Emily Weinstein, co-author of the book “Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults Are Missing).” The curriculum for the workshop was informed by the feedback of a newly formed Youth Advisory Board composed of former workshop attendees and co-facilitators. This was the fourth summer in a row that Dr. Charmaraman and her colleagues have hosted this free program that prioritizes the enrollment of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds from across the country.
“I loved listening to the two panelists—they really broadened my perspective of what jobs were available to women in STEM, and it was really inspiring to see how they combined digital wellbeing with their jobs,” said one attendee. Another said, “I learned that on the internet, you don't have to be like everybody else, and it’s good to be different.”
The idea for the workshops grew out of an ongoing research study of the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab led by Dr. Charmaraman and funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. The aim of the longitudinal project is to determine the longer-term health and wellbeing effects of social technologies, including smartphones, social media, YouTube, and gaming.
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