Irish researcher bags EU grant to study digital use among teens

10 May 2023

Image: © Monkey Business/

Gracia has been awarded €2m for his project, which will investigate if adolescent digital use is connected to social inequalities.

Dr Pablo Gracia of Trinity College Dublin has secured a prestigious EU grant to explore links between digital use and social inequalities among adolescents.

Gracia has been awarded a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC), which will give him €2m over a five-year period for his research project.

The highly competitive ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to academics to build research teams to conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. A batch of Irish researchers secured these Consolidator Grants earlier this year.

The project is called Digineq, or Digital Time Use, Adolescent Well-Being and Social Inequalities. The project will investigate how – or if – adolescent digital use is connected to a rise in social inequalities.

Gracia is an associate professor of sociology in Trinity’s School of Social Sciences and Philosophy. He said the ERC grant will allow him to apply “unconventional approaches and methodologies” and to hire “the most talented PhDs and postdoctoral researchers”.

“This grant will allow my team to develop an innovative scientific framework to understand a major challenge of our times: how digital and social inequalities are interrelated and shape unequal trajectories in adolescents’ well-being,” Gracia said.

“I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to understanding these important scientific and societal challenges through this ERC grant.”

Trinity said Gracia is its 10th researcher to secure an ERC award under the 2022 funding calendar, which brings the total funding secured by Trinity researchers to €16m under this cycle.

New guidelines

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association (APA) has issued a health advisory on the impacts that social media can have on teenagers.

The organisation claims that social media use is not “inherently beneficial or harmful” to young people, based on the scientific evidence to date.

Despite this, the advisory suggests that social media use by children aged between 10 and 14 should be monitored, until the young person develops greater “digital literacy skills”.

The APA also suggested that certain negative biases like racism can be built into the algorithms of social media platforms, presenting the risk that social media can become an “incubator” that fuels racist viewpoints.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic