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The Relationship Between Young People and Technology: It’s Complicated

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation proudly supports Hopelab, a social innovation lab and impact investor at the intersection of tech and youth mental health. Through philanthropic funding, collaborations and intergenerational partnerships, Hopelab works alongside entrepreneurs, funders, researchers and young changemakers to build a thriving future for underserved young people.

Two Decades of Innovation

For over twenty years, Hopelab has created solutions with and for young people. What began as a research lab to explore the idea of a video game for teens with cancer has sparked two decades of innovation. While Hopelab has experienced remarkable growth and transformation, it remains true to its core beliefs in science, evidence and equity for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and LGBTQ+ youth. Hopelab is focused on three strategies for improving well-being outcomes for young people: strategic investments in companies, elevating and supporting young changemakers, and translating research into meaningful practice.

Leveraging Technology for Positive Impact

Hopelab achieves its objectives through research partnerships, grantmaking, and impact investments to mitigate social media’s harmful impact on young people’s mental health. At the same time, it leverages technology’s positive impact to highlight opportunities to support the well-being of young people. Hopelab has become a hub for philanthropic investments in digital mental health, with staff experienced in clinical psychology, corporate innovation, academic research, community behavioral health, engineering, and human-centered design.

Partnering with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The foundation initially made a one-year grant to Hopelab as part of its new Mental Health & Well-Being strategy to better understand youth digital mental health and to be the first to partner in launching a pooled philanthropic fund for digital mental health. The pooled fund, the Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund, grew to $2 million and was regranted to 26 youth or intergenerationally-led organizations. The foundation is renewing this grant to continue supporting Hopelab’s leadership and philanthropic collaboration in this space.

“Over the past two years, we’ve been learning from experts in the mental health field, policymakers, and most importantly, young people, about the extent of need for services as well as hopeful innovations in supporting mental health and well-being,” said Beth Brown, Mental Health & Well-Being managing director at the foundation.

Exploring Social Media and Youth Mental Health

In partnership with Common Sense Media, Hopelab recently released the results from a national survey exploring social media and youth mental health. They surveyed more than 1,200 14–22-year-olds, oversampling among Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ young people to ensure that their perspectives were represented. The survey results showed that although young people encounter negative aspects of social media, they are not passive bystanders. They possess agency, curate their feeds, manage time spent online and avoid harmful content. Young people, particularly Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+, also see digital platforms as essential for connection, support and identity affirmation.

“The impact of social media on young people’s mental health is very much in the public consciousness today. No longer is it just the technology companies and mental health organizations who are in the conversation. Now, it’s parents, young people and journalists, and it shows up in national and state policy efforts. The conversations and attention almost always focus on the harms, but social media is a complex system with many benefits, too,” said Jaspal Sandhu, executive vice president of Hopelab. “We believe in the importance of young people’s perspectives. And we believe that technology has the potential to be a force for good.”

Supporting Diverse Founders and Innovators

Fifty-three percent of the young people served by Hopelab’s partners are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ or low-income. Hopelab backs founders and innovators with lived experience related to the youth and mental health topics it supports, as those founders are uniquely equipped to develop effective and impactful solutions.

Empowering Young Innovators

Understanding how adolescents develop, learn, adapt to change, form relationships and explore their environments is crucial to helping them achieve their full potential in adulthood. Hopelab leans into adolescence as a time of possibility and supports ideas and solutions from young people. In 2023, Hopelab launched the annual Young Innovators in Behavioral Health Awards. These awards identified 30 young innovators already changing mental health and digital mental health through pathways like entrepreneurship, research, journalism and advocacy.

Paving the Way for Investment and Advancement

The unique structure at Hopelab allows for the building and funding of initiatives that create change for this generation of young people and the next. With support and partnership from the foundation, Hopelab will continue paving the way for investment and advancement in digital mental health.

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