DiSTO Youth

The projects associated with DiSTO Youth aim to fill gaps in our knowledge around young people’s digital skills and the outcomes they achieve through use of ICTs.  They combine qualitative and quantitative research methods to construct and test survey instruments and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions related to digital engagement with young people.


The DiSTO youth projects adapt the #DiSTOsurvey measures for skills, uses and outcomes and develop new measures related to motivations, attitudes and support networks in relation to ICTs. Most are focussed on understanding to what extent digital inequalities exist amongst the generation of so-called ‘digital natives’ and which interventions might be most effective in tackling digital exclusion.


The DiSTO NEETs (with the Prince’s Trust) and the Digital Reach (Nominet Trust) project are direct applications of the DiSTO surveys and more information about these is given below. The Benessere Digitale (Milan Univeristy) and the Global and EU Kids Online projects (multi-stakeholder collaboration) have integrated measurement instruments from the DiSTO projects for their research project. Please visit their websites to find out more.

Digital Reach Evaluation

The Digital Reach programme by Nominet Trust was set up to reimagine the delivery of digital skills training by putting expert youth organisations at the heart of a multi-stakeholder endeavour. All 12 delivery partners have existing and trusted relationships with the hardest-to-reach young people. As part of this programme six pilot projects, across the UK, will test a range of new models to meaningfully improve the digital skills, confidence and resilience of those young people on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’

LSE’s participation in this project consists of:

  • Developing a framework that will help evaluate the impact of the programmes in the Digital Research consortium.
  • Identifying a clear baseline and distance travelled for each young person participating in one of  the programmes
  • Comparing and contrasting the impact of the different projects
  • Evaluate the overall programme against the framework of a ‘Theory of Change’


This project is funded through LSE Enterprise by the Nominet Trust.


This project officially called ‘Socio-digital Skills of Disadvantaged Young People’ (aka DiSTO NEETs) intends to contribute with both a better qualitative understanding of how the most vulnerable young people in Britain experience the increasingly digital world around them and tries to establish what the baseline distribution is of a wide range of digital skills and the influence of (the lack) of these on young people’s current and future prospects and well-being.

Little is as of yet known about how positive skills related to social interaction (i.e. networking and communicative skills) and informal creative and participatory skills (i.e. creating and sharing texts, images and videos) are related to well-being of disadvantaged young people both in terms of future employment and education prospects as well as in terms of psychological and physical well-being. There is also a particular gap in baseline data around the digital skills and engagement of young people who fall outside of or who are ‘marginalised’ from the mainstream education system such as young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). DiSTO NEETs aims to fill this gap.

This is achieved via:

  • A review of the literature and evidence around digital literacy, motivation and attitudes in relation to disadvantaged young people.
  • 6 Focus groups with NEETs across the UK
  • A nationally representative survey of 800 young internet users between 16 and 24 and a quota sample survey of 400 internet using NEETs.


This project is funded by the Prince’s Trust for its 40th anniversary. 


Digital reach survey cover

Helsper, E.J., Smirnova, S. & Robinson, D. (2017) Digital Reach Survey.



Press release 7 December 2016 

Lack of trust in “dehumanising” online world leaves disadvantaged young people further behind

A Prince’s Trust and Samsung commissioned report calls for greater digital inclusion for UK’s most disadvantaged young people

Further information available here.

More information about the Prince's Trust here

Please download accompanying infographics by clicking the following links: : 





Asking for help

Prince's Trust Video Prince's Trust Video

Helsper, E.J., & Smirnova, S. (2016) 
Methodological Appendix of the Study: Socio-Digital Skills and Wellbeing of Disadvantaged Young people 

This report is published as part of the ‘Socio-digital Skills and Wellbeing of Disadvantaged Young People’ study commissioned by the Prince’s Trust and supported by Samsung.

Research team


Principal investigator

Dr. Ellen J. Helsper is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the Media and Communications Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Research Assistant 

Svetlana Smirnova is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Media and Communications of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her current interests include self-tracking and self-quantification, digital selfhood, research methods and design, digital inequalities, and health communication.