Practitioner review: Co-design of digital mental health technologies with children and young people

Rhys Bevan Jones, Paul Stallard, Sharifah Shameem Agha, Simon Rice, Aliza Werner-Seidler, Karolina Stasiak, Jason Kahn, Sharon A. Simpson, Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, Frances Rice, Rhiannon Evans, Sally Merry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Citations (SciVal)


Background: There is increasing interest in digital technologies to help improve children and young people’s mental health, and the evidence for the effectiveness for these approaches is rising. However, there is concern regarding levels of user engagement, uptake and adherence. Key guidance regarding digital health interventions stress the importance of early user input in the development, evaluation and implementation of technologies to help ensure they are engaging, feasible, acceptable and potentially effective. Co-design is a process of active involvement of stakeholders, requiring a change from the traditional approaches to intervention development. However, there is a lack of literature to inform the co-design of digital technologies to help child and adolescent mental health. Methods: We reviewed the literature and practice in the co-design of digital mental health technologies with children and young people. We searched Medline, PsycInfo and Web of Science databases, guidelines, reviews and reference lists, contacted key authors for relevant studies, and extracted key themes on aspects of co-design relevant to practice. We supplemented this with case studies and methods reported by researchers working in the field. Results: We identified 25 original articles and 30 digital mental health technologies that were designed/developed with children and young people. The themes identified were as follows: principles of co-design (including potential stakeholders and stages of involvement), methods of involving and engaging the range of users, co-designing the prototype and the challenges of co-design. Conclusions: Co-design involves all relevant stakeholders throughout the life and research cycle of the programme. This review helps to inform practitioners and researchers interested in the development of digital health technologies for children and young people. Future work in this field will need to consider the changing face of technology, methods of engaging with the diversity in the user group, and the evaluation of the co-design process and its impact on the technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-940
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number8
Early online date22 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • adolescent
  • Child
  • co-design
  • development
  • digital
  • e-health
  • mental health
  • technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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