Digital technology and adolescent conduct problems

Adolescents spend an unprecedented amount of time using digital technology to access the Internet and engage with social media. There is concern that this continuous connectivity could increase their mental health symptoms, especially for at-risk adolescents. | Journal of Pediatric Nursing

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A new US study has reported that on days that at-risk adolescents used technology more, they experienced more conduct problems and higher attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms compared to days when they used digital technologies less.

However, the study also found that on days when adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Key findings:

•Daily digital technology use by at-risk adolescents is associated with worse mental health symptoms.
•Higher levels of digital technology use were associated with increases in next-day conduct problems.
•Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms increased with increased digital technology use.
•When adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Full reference: McBride, Deborah L. Daily Digital Technology Use Linked to Mental Health Symptoms for High-risk Adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Nursing: Nursing Care of Children and Families. Published online 7th June 2017

Ethics of digital technology for mental health

The potential of digital technology to make the lives of people with mental health difficulties better has never been greater | The Mental Elf

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The advent of the smartphone and mobile internet access has created the conditions for an ever-expanding range of opportunities for the use of technology to influence outcomes in health. However, ethical considerations remain for professionals in suggesting the use of such technologies.

Bauer et al.’s (2017) open access paper Ethical perspectives on recommending digital technology for patients with mental illness reviews some of the major ethical concerns presented to medical professionals by this explosion of technological possibilities and explores some of the ways in which new technologies challenge the boundaries between health, commerce and the private and public uses of data.

Read the full blog post here

Meeting the Needs of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth: Formative Research on Potential Digital Health Interventions

Steinke, J. et al. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online: January 17 2017

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Purpose: Sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY) have unique risk factors and worse health outcomes than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. SGMY’s significant online activity represents an opportunity for digital interventions. To help meet the sex education and health needs of SGMY and to understand what they consider important, formative research was conducted to guide and inform the development of new digital health interventions.

 

Conclusions: Any digital intervention for SGMY should focus on mental health and well-being holistically rather than solely on risk behaviors, such as preventing HIV. Interventions should include opportunities for interpersonal connection, foster a sense of belonging, and provide accurate information about sexuality and gender to help facilitate positive identity development. Content and delivery of digital interventions should appeal to diverse sexualities, genders, and other intersecting identities held by SGMY to avoid further alienation.

Read the full article here

How to find a good app for mental health

Bakke, D & Rickard, N. The Conversation. Published online: November 6 2016

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Mental health apps don’t promise to be a replacement for professional help, but can be useful tools in the treatment of subclinical problems (such as everyday anxious feelings and low moods) and the prevention of clinical problems (such as depression and anxiety disorders). Some psychologists or mental health clinicians use apps in addition to the work they do with clients and patients.

So before you set out to navigate the quagmire of available mental health apps, what should you keep in mind?

  1. Does it use evidence-based techniques?
  2. Does it address more than one symptom or issue?
  3. Do you tell the app how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, or what you’re doing?
  4. Does the app recommend activities that are non-technology-based and linked to the problems you’ve reported?
  5. Can you use the app in real time, as you’re experiencing distress?
  6. Is there good experimental evidence to show the app’s effectiveness?
  7. Do you like it?

Read more about the full list of recommendations here

Bedtime use of media devices more than doubles the risk of poor sleep in children

Carter, B. et al. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online: October 31 2016.

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Objective  To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine whether there is an association between portable screen-based media device (eg, cell phones and tablet devices) access or use in the sleep environment and sleep outcomes.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Of 467 studies identified, 20 cross-sectional studies were assessed for methodological quality. Two reviewers independently extracted data.

Results  Twenty studies were included, and their quality was assessed. The studies involved 125 198 children (mean [SD] age, 14.5 [2.2] years; 50.1% male). There was a strong and consistent association between bedtime media device use and inadequate sleep quantity (odds ratio [OR], 2.17; 95% CI, 1.42-3.32) (P < .001, I2 = 90%), poor sleep quality (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.14-1.88) (P = .003, I2 = 76%), and excessive daytime sleepiness (OR, 2.72; 95% CI, 1.32-5.61) (P = .007,I2 = 50%). In addition, children who had access to (but did not use) media devices at night were more likely to have inadequate sleep quantity (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.39-2.31) (P < .001, I2 = 64%), poor sleep quality (OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.11-2.10) (P = .009, I2 = 74%), and excessive daytime sleepiness (OR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.54-3.35) (P < .001, I2 = 24%).

Conclusions and Relevance  To date, this study is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the association of access to and the use of media devices with sleep outcomes. Bedtime access to and use of a media device were significantly associated with the following: inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. An integrated approach among teachers, health care professionals, and parents is required to minimize device access at bedtime, and future research is needed to evaluate the influence of the devices on sleep hygiene and outcomes.

Read the full review article here