Skip to main content
Analyzing how youth interact with information, data and technology

Exploring the challenges facing children and teens in the 21st century

Leanne Bowler, Associate Professor

Technology has changed the way we live our daily lives and for young people, it has created concerns that didn’t exist before. Children have always been bullied; but social media now amplifies the speed and reach of that bullying. Developing a healthy self-image has always been a part of growing up; but how does the sheer volume of online data impact a person’s self-identity? In addition, young people can now get answers from strangers online; how do they evaluate the credibility, accuracy, reliability, and helpfulness of that information?

Leanne Bowler’s research investigates the intrapersonal competencies and practices of young people as they interact with digital technologies

All of Bowler’s research explores questions of metacognitive practice, self-awareness, self-regulation and critical thinking.

“My colleagues and I touch on broader issues related to information cultures and the ethics of information,” explains Bowler. “I’m looking at a bigger question about critical computing, critical technical practice. And to me, critically means ethically, thinking about how does this impact other people.”

With her cyberbullying research project, she’s researching ways to get young people to act with empathy when using technology. Participants in the Think Before You Click research project shared ideas on how social media could be redesigned to encourage people to stop and think before they post something insensitive. Two students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Informatics and Networked Systems created a working prototype based on some of these suggestions, and presented this at the Computers and Human Interaction Conference (CHI), 2016.

The Teen Health Information Project provided insights into gaps in the health information literacy of young people. Findings from this study support the development of instructional interventions, information systems, and library services that are grounded in the real-world practices.

Bowler is also looking at data literacy, and the seemingly endless questions surrounding our personal data. For example, what is young peoples’ awareness of the data that’s collected about them? What story is their data telling about them, and does it reflect their identity of themselves? Since Bowler is interested in the lifecycle and management of data and information, her research also explores what young people know about preserving and storing their data along with what data should be kept private.

“All of my research circles around questions regarding metacognitive practices. So for me, I have that as the core and all the technology pieces circle it.”


Leanne Bowler is an associate professor and director of the Sara Fine Institute for Interpersonal Behavior and Technology.