ESRC Digital Good Network


Q&A with our new resilience postdoc, Danielle Paddock

Hear more from Danielle Paddock, our new postdoctoral researcher on resilience. Published 11 September 2023.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your work?

A: I am a cyberpsychologist interested in understanding the risks and opportunities afforded by digital technologies, particularly in relation to adolescent development including identity exploration, peer relationships, body image development and mental health and wellbeing. I am particularly interested in thinking about how we can utilise digital technologies to promote positive wellbeing, especially among young people. I am also a research associate in the Centre for Behavioural Science and Applied Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University where I contribute to a number of behavioural science research projects, including work funded by the Department for Education.  

My research primarily adopts a mixed-methods approach utilising both quantitative (eg surveys) and qualitative (eg interviews) methodologies. I am also passionate about using co-design and participatory methods in my research approach with the aim of highlighting and incorporating individual voice into the research process, including the development and delivery of interventions. For example, I worked on a project with York City Council where we worked collaboratively with young people across York to co-develop a social media safety charter, which highlighted benefits and risks of social media from an adolescent perspective, and adolescents then informed the advice that they wanted and needed in order to stay safe online. 

Furthermore, my PhD explored how adolescents understand and experience appearance-related interactions on social media in relation to body image concerns, peer relationships and self-development. The findings from my PhD really highlighted the way in which the online environment transforms peer experiences and relationships, as well as showing the ways in which young people understand, experience and navigate digital spheres as an important part of their development. 

Q:  What research will you be undertaking for the Digital Good Network? And what are you looking forward to in your postdoctoral position? 

A: I am a part-time postdoc for the Digital Good Network for the next two years, where I will be working within the Digital Good Network team to explore what a digital good society should look like, exploring specifically the role of digital relationships. Alongside Professor Abigail Millings at Sheffield Hallam, this research project will explore the impact of digital technologies on romantic and family relationships, and in turn explore how these digital relationships impacts upon overall wellbeing. The findings from this project will inform part of the broader Digital Good Index, by explaining what optimal digital technology use looks like as well as identifying the benefit and risks for individuals and their close relationships. 

This project will involve conducting a longitudinal study, where we aim to identify any protective and risk factors, and also what benefits can be found in individuals’ relationships with digital technologies. The findings will help to address some of the questions about how digital technology affects us, both for good and for bad, and how it impacts individuals over time. I’m really excited about this, as we often hear within the mass media that digital technology is ‘bad’ for wellbeing but there are many benefits to digital technology, and we need to develop the tools within society to maximise these positives and minimise the negatives to overall wellbeing, as well as understanding what this may look like for individuals and across relationships. Although this project is very much in its early stages, it aims to capture data on a range of factors relating to the use of digital technologies in daily life. In this way, we want to create an open access dataset that is of maximum utility to other researchers beyond the life of this project, with a broad focus on relationships, digital technology use and wellbeing. 

As well as working on this exciting research project, I’m also really looking forward to working with the rest of the Digital Good Network core team and to contribute to the broader mission of trying to understand what a digital good society should look like. I am also looking forward to learning from experts in the area, to explore other disciplines and learn about how we can work together to contribute to the same outcome through these various disciplines and approaches. I am a firm advocate of interdisciplinary work and so being afforded the opportunity to be a part of the Digital Good Network team will help me nurture this and so I’m really excited to get started!

About the author

Danielle Paddock

Danielle Paddock

Danielle Paddock is a postdoctoral researcher in resilience as part of the Digital Good Network. Working with the Resilience Challenge Leader, Professor Abigail Millings, her research explores the role of digital technologies on close relationships.

You can read more about her on her profile page.