Hi there! I’m Neeraj Chatlani, the Manager of the Teenovate Program. With the official launch of this website, I wanted to take some time to greet visitors and tell you a bit more about what Teenovate aims to do over the coming years and months.

The Teenovate program is a part of Dr. Pamela Wisniewski’s research on adolescent online safety, within the Socio-Technical Interaction Research (STIR) Lab at the University of Central Florida. ‘Adolescent Online Safety’ refers to the ways in which teenagers protect themselves when they encounter situations online that make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Situations like cyberbullying, being harassed online, and sometimes more serious cases, like anonymous sexual harassment, and leaking of private information. Our lab focuses on understanding how teenagers encounter these situations from the very beginning, how they try to resolve these situations, and what technology-based tools and features teens would find helpful when dealing with these situations.

Most of our research studies bring teenagers in to work together with our researchers, discussing online risk and helping to design new tools and technology that would benefit their online safety. The Teenovate program aims to be a long-term version of this kind of work, working with the same groups, or ‘cohorts’ of teenagers, researchers and designers for a number of months or even a year.

We use a research method called Participatory Design, which means that when we work with teenagers, they get to work directly with researchers to design these new technologies. Our teen participants have an equal say in what online safety issues we focus on, how we work on these issues, and the ultimate direction of the online safety tools we create. The final product depends on how much time and effort the cohort can commit over the course of the program, but will always involve teenage members’ input and contribution until the very end. We also plan to compensate all teenage participants for their time and work as part of Teenovate cohorts.

As we launch the Teenovate project, we have a number of projects planned leading up to forming the first cohorts, including the formation of a Teenovate Youth Advisory Board, where teenagers will both help to improve the design of the STIR Lab’s upcoming teen-centered research studies, and attend multiple workshops to learn about User Experience (UX) research.

The Teenovate program is just beginning, but please visit us again as we update this website with new projects and research participation opportunities over the coming year.