Technology for Resilient Youth: Fostering emotional expression and social connectedness amongst at-risk young adults


Yi-Chin Chen

Yi-Chin Chen

We are working to design healing socio-digital interventions with and for youth who have experienced traumatic events in their homes, e.g. abuse or neglect, which may result in their removal from their home. These traumas disrupt youths’ ability to trust others and develop social connections [1,3], exacerbated by isolation and inadequate care in the child welfare system and the negative effects of existing social platforms [4,7,8]. Many experience a pervasive lack of social support that negatively impacts their mental health and ability to navigate stressful life situations [2,3,5,6]. Working upstream with youth who have experienced the most severe abuse and neglect, we design digital spaces for youth to express themselves and build resonance with others, bolstering them in forming new, supportive connections.

Our methodologies draw on therapeutic best practices, trauma-informed and healing centered frameworks, and collaborative design principles - centering the perspectives and experiences of young people who need the most support, prioritizing reciprocity and safety, and following an iterative prototyping process.

In the process, we are grateful to regularly learn from and engage with youth-serving organizations across Massachusetts, California, Georgia, and Rhode Island, including  Friends of the Children Boston, Communities for People, Think of Us' Virtual Support Services, Stepping Forward LA, the JRI Foster Care Program, and TeenTalk

This project has been generously funded by The Shah Family Foundation and other donors. 


1. Margaret Blaustein and Kristine M. Kinniburgh. 2010. Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents: how to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency. The Guilford Press, New York, NY. Retrieved September 15, 2023 from

2. Sheldon Cohen and Thomas A. Wills. 1985. Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin 98, 2: 310–357.

3. Judith Lewis Herman. 2015. Trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence, from domestic abuse to political terror. In Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. New York.

4. Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson, and Jordyn Young. 2018. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 37, 10: 751–768.

5. Ichiro Kawachi and Lisa F. Berkman. 2001. Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health 78, 3: 458–467.

6. Aqeel Khan and Akbar Husain. 2010. Social Support as a Moderator of Positive Psychological Strengths and Subjective Well-Being. Psychological Reports 106, 2: 534–538.

7. Ila Krishna Kumar. 2023. Fostering Well-Being: Designing Technology to Improve the Psychological Well-being of Foster-Involved Youth. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from

8. Nathanael J Okpych, Keunhye Park, Huiling Feng, Adrianna Torres, and Mark E Courtney. 2018. Memo from CalYOUTH: Differences in Social Support at Age 19 by Extended Foster Care Status and Placement Type. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago: 12.