Understanding the impact of children and young people with the rapidly changing digital environment.

The digital environment is continually updating and has become a constant in the lives for many young people. By understanding how children and young people interact with this environment we are able to gain insight into the impact this has on physical and mental health.

This theme brings together researchers from many disciplines including environmental and behavioural epidemiology, exposure science, genetics, psychiatry, psychology, cognitive neuroscience and mental health. This transdisciplinary approach allows us to gain a holistic view on behavioural, social and environmental relationships with the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

  • Behavioural relationships – What is the impact of excessive technology use, social media use, night-time use?
  • Social relationships – Digital social connectivity.
  • Environmental relationships – Is there an impact of the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by phones on children and young people’s health?

Our work

Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP)

The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP) is the largest study in the world looking specifically at the impact of mobile phones and social media on young people’s physical and mental health, and brain function. The study involves working with over 7,000 secondary school pupils across 39 schools in London SCAMP has one of the largest adolescent cognitive datasets in the world, in terms of number of participants and breadth of cognitive tasks (e.g. cognitive flexibility, inhibition, working memory) and comprehensive measurement of mobile phones/wireless device use, including up-to-date current digital technologies and behaviours. SCAMP combines this data with routinely collected health and educational data, longitudinal biomarkers (small molecules in the body that can easily be monitored) of puberty hormones, stress levels and environmental tobacco smoke, with linking to genotyping data planned.

SCAMP is uniquely placed to answer scientific questions about the effects of the digital environment, unravelling the complex relationship with many other factors affecting mental health in adolescence (e.g. physical activity, sleep, pubertal hormones and genetic factors).

We have been working hard on an app which will help us engage with our participants and collect data over the next 5 years. We will soon be launching the pilot version of our app which will give insight to how young people use and interact with the digital environment. This is an important step to advance exposure assessment in this research field and will help the team to follow-up on a school-based cohort study after young people leave school.

This study also plays a vital role in several other research themes of the Mohn Centre including public and community involvement, engagement and participation, built environment and infrastructure and social environment.

Find out more about SCAMP

c-VEDA study

The Mohn Centre collaborates with the Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions (c-VEDA) study, sharing methodologies and addressing linked research questions in UK and India. Questions include whether adolescence and puberty is a specific period of mental health vulnerability to mobile phone exposure or whether findings from the study can be translated to other counties.

This work contributes to the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in chemical and radiation threats and hazards, in partnership with Imperial College London and the UK Health Security Agency.

Find out more about the Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions

Theme lead

  • Dr Rachel Smith

    Personal details

    Dr Rachel Smith Research Fellow in Population Child Health


    Rachel Smith is an epidemiologist with experience in local, national and international health research projects and cohort studies. Projects span across environmental epidemiology and reproductive, perinatal, child and adolescent health research. This includes research on exposures to air pollution, noise and disinfection by-products during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes; and research into the impacts of wireless and digital technologies on reproductive health, and physical and mental health and cognition in both adolescent and adult populations.

Theme members

Our partners