The project will receive close to $2 million from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and is one of several to come out of the newly formed Co-operative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing, led by Inspire Foundation.
Project Leader of the Murdoch team, Dr Ingrid Richardson, said marginalised young people were at a higher risk of developing serious and sustained mental health difficulties because they were among the most socially isolated members of Australian society.
“Our preliminary research has shown that creating and sharing content has a positive effect on young people’s sense of community, belonging and connection,” Dr Richardson said.
“The new media and technology landscape provides an unprecedented opportunity to reach and engage vulnerable young people, making them feel more socially included and enhancing their wellbeing.”
The research, which begins in July 2011 and will take place over five years, will focus on specific cohorts of vulnerable or at-risk young people. The research will be conducted in collaboration with industry and community partners including the Foundation for Young Australians, the Telstra Foundation, Student Edge and the WA-based Freedom Centre, run by the WA AIDS Council.
“Our research will include three different phases. In the first phase we will map our target groups’ current media and technology access, use and practices. Young people aged between 12 and 25 will be involved,” Dr Richardson said.
“In the second phase we will coach young mentors to train groups of young people in online and mobile media literacy, digital citizenship – the persona you create online – and digital content skills like creating audio and visual online content.”
“The final stage will see young people individually and collaboratively create content, upload their work to a Google-supported online content repository called Yooftube (similar to Youtube) and distribute it within the online community.”
Many vulnerable young people will be trained in media skills, literacy and creative content production as a direct result of the project. Outcomes of the project will be used to better promote wellbeing in young people, find ways to encourage them to seek help and improve the provision of mental health services to this group.
Murdoch University has also invested $500,000 in the CRC over five years.