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Youth Skills (ySKILLS)

Exploring how children’s digital skills benefit their well-being

ySKILLS’ holistic lens into young people’s digital experience means that we can identify young people’s diversity and understand how social marginalisation might restrict but also generate digital skills for well-being.

Professor Myria Georgiou

As of yet there are no good survey and performance test instruments to measure young people’s complex set of digital skills. We will develop with other ySKILLS partners to examine how youth’s digital skills are fundamental to achieving their goals.

Professor Ellen Helsper

Do children’s digital skills really benefit their well-being? ySKILLS funding means we can explore these questions to inform policy recommendations on how to realize children’s right to digital literacy, along with other rights, in the digital age.

Professor Sonia Livingstone


Media@LSE was a partner on this international and interdisciplinary project on Youth Skills (ySKILLS) in the digital age (EU Horizon 2020, €3.2 million, 2020-23). ySKILLS examined risks and opportunities related to children’s ICT use and the role of digital skills in children’s cognitive, physical, psychological and social well-being.

The project involved longitudinal research with children aged 12 to 17 and aimed to offer evidence on how to enhance and maximise long-term positive impacts of the ICT environment on multiple aspects of children’s wellbeing by stimulating resilience through the enhancement of digital skills.

Professor Sonia Livingstone: About ySKILLS and the LSE Participation Professor Sonia Livingstone: About ySKILLS and the LSE Participation
Professor Sonia Livingstone: About ySKILLS and the LSE Participation

ySKILLS overview

Led by the University of Leuven, the project involved 15 partner institutions across Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and the UK) from leading international centres for research on media studies, communication sciences, youth research, psychology, pedagogy, law, educational neuroscience and sociology.

ySKILLS aimed to identify groups of children who were at a greater risk of having low levels of wellbeing because of their ICT use and to understand how digital skills can function as protective factors, building resilience and shielding children from harm. Offering a critical perspective, ySKILLS extends traditional conceptions of skills by recognising children’s views as the experts on their skills and in their capacity of young citizens with agency, voice and rights.

Project objectives:
  • To acquire extensive knowledge and better measurement of digital skills;
  • To develop and test an innovative, evidence-based explanatory and foresight model predicting the complex impacts of ICT use and digital skills on children’s cognitive, psychological, physical and social wellbeing;
  • To explain the ways in which at-risk children (in terms of mental health, ethnic or cultural origin, socio-economic status, and gender) can benefit from online opportunities despite their risk factors (material, social, psychological);
  • To generate insightful evidence-based recommendations and strategies for key stakeholder groups to promote digital skills and well-being.

 Leen d'Haenens, Project Coordinator on ySKILLS

To date, there is no authoritative account of either the determinants or impacts of digital skills, notwithstanding the enormous body of policy and educational work that view digital skills as essential. Both academia and society would greatly profit from a model connecting the determinants of ICT use and digital skills with their impacts on wellbeing. With ySKILLS we want to understand why and how some children and adolescents reap greater benefits from ICT use while others seem to be negatively impacted. That is why the role of digital skills in relation to children's and adolescents' overall wellbeing needs to be researched further. In ySKILLS we also want to acquire a better measurement of digital skills, thus not only the technical skills, through performance test assignments.

More about ySKILLS:

Our LSE activities 

Reviewing the existing evidence

  • Conduct a systematic review of the existing evidence to identify what is known and where the gaps are regarding the children’s digital skills and their possible effects on well-being;

  • Based on the existing evidence, identify the actors and factors which shape 12-17-year-olds’ digital skills and their outcomes.

  • Generate priority research questions and hypotheses for further research.

  • Undertake a critical review of ySKILLS conceptual model and prepare the integration of theories based on this and other research carried out across ySKILLS.

Developing robust methodologies for measuring digital skills

  • Develop and validate digital skills measurement through performance testing and self-reporting scales for the cross-national longitudinal survey;

  • Create a conceptual model of digital skills as multi-dimensional to include functional, critical and strategic aspects of skills;

  • Broaden the study of digital skills beyond technical-operational skills, to include information navigation and processing, social interaction and communication, and content creation and creativity.

Understating the benefits and risks for vulnerable children

  • Investigate whether digital skills improve or undermine at-risk children’s well-being and what role they play for fostering coping and resilience.

  • Learn whether at-risk children equally benefit from digital skills, or whether, by contrast, different groups need different policy and practice responses.

  • Tap into important and barely studied types of vulnerabilities in the digital age by exploring the experiences of two different groups of at-risk children: refugee and first-generation migrant children living in Belgium, Greece, UK; and children from Norway and the UK experiencing internet-related mental health difficulties (excessive use, self-harm, cyberbullying).

Mapping recommendations for realising children’s rights in the digital age

  • Build on the synthesis of project results regarding youth’s digital skills and well-being to generate European recommendations for policy and practice;

  • Incorporate and respond to the views and participation of children and adolescents in the research process;

  • Relate the results and recommendations to the relevant legal standards and bodies;

  • Frame these in terms of the rights of the child in order to further their realisation in relation to the digital environment.

Our methods


Systematic evidence mapping – what do we know from the evidence so far?

  • A systematic mapping of the evidence, to be broken down by year (e.g., first decade of the internet, second decade), country, age group (primary/secondary school pupils), classification of country by digital development (DESI ranking), quality (based on abstracts and publication outlets) and focus, will reveal what is known and not known (evidence gaps).

  • A rapid evidence assessment to understand the role of – and unanswered questions regarding – digital skills in the theoretical model of the ySKILLS project. This task will identify the (f)actors which shape children’s and adolescents’ digital skills and their outcomes, thereby generating a series of hypotheses and priority research questions, as well as the information needed to critically review the ySKILLS conceptual model and prepare the integration of theories.

How can we measure digital skills?

  • Develop a robust longitudinal survey to measure short- and medium-term impact of ICTs on children and adolescents by applying a set of different methods for testing different dimensions of ICT uses and digital skills.

  • Cognitive interviews and performance tests will be carried out with a subsample of children and adolescents in six countries to validate the survey instruments, including also newly developed and adapted items for measuring digital skills. The performance test instrument can also be used by educational institutions.

  • The survey is longitudinal with three waves of data collection. It will be mostly based on self-reported data and some achievement tasks. A multi-informant peer-to-peer approach will also be used, collecting data on estimated skills of classmates to be used for network analysis.

Refugee and migrant children and adolescents: Vulnerable or media-savvy youth at Europe’s margins?

  • Adopt a multi-method qualitative approach including 30 semi-structured interviews in each of the three countries under study (Belgium, Greece and the United Kingdom) generating rich data on patterns in media use.

  • Draw cross-European comparisons regarding refugee and migrant children’s ICT-related concerns for wellbeing; and their perceptions of the online/offline resources and obstacles associated with wellbeing.

  • Generate a purposeful sample of young people (aged 12-17) (10 in each country) to participate in a so-called asset mapping, during which we will use games and playful techniques to map out children’s and adolescents’ online world in a non-confrontational way. This approach will allow us to generate 1) systematic qualitative data that reflect complex and sensitive narratives and experiences associated with their wellbeing and mental health, as these relate to ICT use with a focus on social media; 2) cross-European comparative analysis of migrant and refugee children’s experiences as media users at the social margins; and 3) a child-centred/user-centred innovative methodology that engages with children and adolescents, as participants, not subjects.

Children and adolescents experiencing internet-related mental health difficulties – the benefits and risks of digital skills?

  • Conduct qualitative research with children and adolescents experiencing internet-related mental health difficulties to generate methodological innovation for the study of at-risk children and ICT use.

  • Focus on in-depth interviews with a minimum of 10 adolescents in three niche groups per country (the UK and Norway) – children and adolescents experiencing excessive use, self-harm, cyberbullying – who are under the care of clinical practitioners for internet-related trauma (60 interviews in total).

  • To conduct the in-depth interviews, we will work in partnership with clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who specialise in mental health difficulties as these relate to the internet. This explorative study will be situated in London and Oslo and, thereby, in contrasting cultures of childhood. 

Publications and other outputs


Livingstone, S., Stoilova, M., & Rahali, M. (2023). Realising children's rights in the digital age: The role of digital skills. KU Leuven: ySKILLS. [see also the interactive version]

Smahel, D., Mascheroni, G., Livingstone, S., Helsper, E. J., van Deursen, A., Tercova, N., Stoilova, M., Georgiou, M., Machackova, H., & Alho, K. (2023). Theoretical Integration of ySKILLS: Towards a New Model of Digital Literacy. KU Leuven: ySKILLS.

Livingstone, S. and Stoilova, M. (2023) Internet use, digital skills and mental health: deliberative workshops with young people. London: London School of Economics and Political Science and ySKILLS.

Graham, R. (2023) How to Understand Social Media Algorithms. London: STEM4.

Livingstone, S., Stoilova, M., Stänicke, L. I., Jessen, R. S., Graham, R., Staksrud, E., & Jensen, T. K. (2022). Young people experiencing internet-related mental health difficulties: The benefits and risks of digital skills. An empirical study. KU Leuven, ySKILLS. [Full report] [Executive summary] [A resource for young people] [A resource for child support practitioners]

Chouliaraki, L. and Georgiou, M. (2022) The Digital Border: Migration, technology, power. New York: NYU Press

Georgiou, M. (2022) Digital (In-)visibilities: Spatializing and visualising politics of voice. Communication, Culture, and Critique, 15(2): 269-275

ySKILLS (2022) Vulnerabilities and digital skills: an interactive report. KU Leuven, ySKILLS.

Livingstone, S., Mascheroni, G., & Stoilova, M. (2021). The outcomes of gaining digital skills for young people’s lives and wellbeing: A systematic evidence review. New Media & Society, 0(0).

Helsper, Ellen J., Schneider, Luc S., van Deursen, Alexander J.A.M., & van Laar, Ester. (2021). The youth Digital Skills Indicator: Report on the conceptualisation and development of the ySKILLS digital skills measure. Zenodo.

Haddon, Leslie, Cino, Davide, Doyle, Mary-Alice, Livingstone, Sonia, Mascheroni, Giovanna, & Stoilova, Mariya. (2020). Children's and young people's digital skills: a systematic evidence review. Zenodo.

Georgiou, M (2019) City of refuge or digital order? Refugee recognition and the digital governmentality of migration in the city. Television and new media

Livingstone, S., Ólafsson, K., Helsper, E. J., Lupiáñez-Villanueva, F., Veltri, G. A.., and Folkvord, F. (2017) Maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks for children online: the role of digital skills in emerging strategies of parental mediation. Journal of Communication, 67(1): 82-105.

Van Deursen, A. J. A. M., Helsper, E. J., & Eynon, R. (2016). Development and validation of the Internet Skills Scale (ISS). Information, Communication & Society, 19(6), 804-823. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1078834


Livingstone, S., Stoilova, M. & Rahali, M. (2023) Respect, protect, fulfil: how digital literacy enables the realisation of children’s rights. Media@LSE (4 December 2023) Blog Entry.

Livingstone, S. (2023) What’s the best we can expect of media literacy? From protectionism to human rights and flourishing. Media@LSE (13 December 2023) Blog Entry.

Livingstone, S. & Stoilova, M. (2023) Mental health and digital skills: an online resource for young people. ySKILLS (18 September 2022) Blog Entry.

Stoilova, M. (2022) Young people’s online engagement and mental health: the role of digital skills. ySKILLS (30 November 2022) Blog Entry.

Mascheroni, G. (2022) The role of digital skills in the lives of vulnerable and at-risk children and young people. ySKILLS (18 November 2022) Blog Entry. 

Livingstone, S., Mascheroni, G., & Stoilova, M. (2021). All digital skills are not all created equal, and teaching technical skills alone is problematic. Parenting for a Digital Future (20 Oct 2021). Blog Entry.

Stoilova, M. (2021). What to be mindful of: children’s mental health and the digital environment. Parenting for a Digital Future (6 Oct 2021). Blog Entry.

Livingstone, S. (2017) Digital skills matter in the quest for the ‘holy grail.’ Parenting for a Digital Future (7 Feb 2017). Blog Entry.

Livingstone, S., Kardefeldt-Winther, D., and Stoilova, M. (2019) New Global Kids Online findings show that internet use can increase children’s opportunities and build digital skills. Media LSE (10 Dec 2019). Blog Entry.

Helsper, E. J., & Smirnova, S. (2019). Chapter 9. Youth inequalities in digital interactions and well-being In T. Burns & F. Gottschalk (Eds.) Educating 21st century children.

Webinars and videos

Children’s rights in the digital world - Sonia Livingstone. ySKILLS final conference (30 November 2023)

Young refugees' digital skills for precarious lives - Myria Georgiou. ySKILLS final conference (30 November 2023)

A fresh approach to measuring digital skills - a panel with Ellen Helsper. ySKILLS final conference (30 November 2023)

Young people's online engagement and mental health - Mariya Stoilova. ySKILLS final conference (30 November 2023)

ySKILLS (Youth Skills) final conference (30 November 2023)

Youth mental health and internet use: benefits and risks of digital skills. ySKILLS webinar (30 November 2022) 

Children's rights in a digital world - an animation. LSE & ySKILLS (5 October 2023)

Vulnerabilities and Digital Skills. ySKILLS webinar (18 November 2022)

Helsper, E.J. & Rattee, J. in collaboration with Masterclass (2017) Literacy and Resilience. Film Shorts Cyberscene project.


The Impact of Digital Experiences on Adolescents with Mental Health Vulnerabilities | Redefining Society ITSPmagazine -  Sonia Livinsgtone being interviewed by Marco Ciappelli

LSE Events (2022) The Age of Refugees.

IMISCOE (International Migration Research Network) (2022) Myria Georgiou on the Migration and the media podcast series.

Related projects

Project team

Myria pic for Yskills

Myria Georgiou is Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She has consistently received funding for cross-national research with a particular focus on European cultural diversity, migration and the media over the last 10 years. Currently she is leading a research team conducting research on refugee settlement and digital connectivity across the cities of Athens, Berlin and London. Her research has contributed to policy-oriented consultancies and publications, including two collaborations with the Council of Europe on inclusive media and cultural diversity, and on refugee representation in the media.

"The work I am focussing on, in collaboration with the Belgian team, examines how refugee and migrant young people engage with digital technologies to develop their skills and knowledge but we also investigates how this engagement with communication technologies might also increase their vulnerabilities."

Ellen pic for Yskills

Ellen Helsper is Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She is an expert on the links between social and digital inequalities and the development of innovative methodologies in this field. She specialises in studying how the distribution of digital skills and literacies leads to inequalities in the positive and negative outcomes that individuals achieve from ICT use and the impact of social media in everyday life. She has broad experience leading global, comparative projects in this field such as the From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes projects, the World Internet Project, and the Global Kids Online projects.

“As of yet there are no good survey and performance test instruments to measure young people’s complex set of digital skills. The LSE team will develop these in collaboration with other ySKILLS partners. These measures will be used in the project and will provide tools for policy makers, educators and other stakeholders for whom understanding youth’s digital skills is fundamental to achieving their goals.” 

Sonia pic for YSKills

Sonia Livingstone is Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She is an expert on children’s rights, risks and opportunities in the digital age, specialising in European evidence and policy. Author and editor of 20 books, she founded the EU Kids Online network, and advises the Council of Europe and UN Committee on the Rights of the Children, among others, on the challenges of the digital environment. She currently directs the projects Children’s Data and Privacy OnlineGlobal Kids Online, and Parenting for a Digital Future, and she is Deputy Director of the Nurture Network. She is WP7 leader and member of the Executive Board of ySKILLS.

Richard Graham

Dr Richard Graham is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Clincial Director at stem4: the Young People’s Mental Health Charity. He was formerly a Clinical Director at the Tavistock Clinic and for the past 5 years he was the Clinical Director for Good Thinking: London’s Digital Mental Well-being Service. He has worked extensively in digital health and e-safety for the last 12 years and is recognised as a digital health pioneer. He also established the first Technology Addiction Service for Young People in the UK in 2010, and contributed to the World Health Organisations consideration of Gaming Disorder as a medical diagnosis. 

Leslie pic for YskillsLeslie pic for Yskills

Leslie Haddon is a Senior Visiting Researcher and Guest Teacherin the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. His diverse research over the course of 30 years has focused on the social shaping and consumption of ICTs, especially looking at studies of domestication. For the last 12 years his main focus has been on children’s digital experiences. He helped to coordinate the EU Kids Online project that examined the online risks faced by children aged 9-16 and participated in the Net Children Go Mobile project on children’s use of smartphones and tablets. More recently he was a member of the team working on the Toddlers and Tablets project looking at the smartphone and tablet use of 0-5 year-olds.


Mariya Stoilova holds a post-doctoral research position at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). With a strong focus on multi-method evidence generation and cross-national compar  ative analyses, her work focuses on the intersection of child rights and digital technology use, well-being and family support, and intimate life, citizenship and social inequalities.

Luc pic for Yskills

Luc Schneider is a PhD student at the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science and part-time Research Assistant on the ySKILLS project. He has a background in Behavioural Economics, and his current research focuses on the relationship between self-reported thoughts and subjective wellbeing.

Mary pic for Yskills

Mary-Alice Doyle is a PhD student in the Department of Social Policy. Her research looks at how welfare policy can affect health and education outcomes for children and young adults. She has previously worked as an economist and as a research manager.

Alia Zaki

Alia Zaki graduated with an MA in Political Economy of the Middle East from King’s College London and a BSc in International Politics from Brunel University London. She recently worked as a Researcher and Data Analyst, working with the public, private and third sectors in the UK. Alongside her research work, she is a freelance writer with digital content experience. She manages a political social media page focusing on the Middle East and co-founded a political and news blog. Her interests are in policy, political affairs and foreign policy within the Middle East and beyond.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under Grant Agreement no. 870612. Find out more.