Digital media use linked to behavioural problems in children

“We can say with confidence that teens who were exposed to higher levels of digital media were significantly more likely to develop ADHD symptoms in the future” says Professor Adam Leventhal  of the Keck School of Medicine of USC discussing the findings of a study that has now been in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).  The research assessed young people’s digital media usage any association between occurrence of ADHD symptoms during adolescence and tracked almost 2600 teenagers over a  24-month period.

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The research team’s findings indicate that teens who are heavy users of digital devices are twice as likely as infrequent users to show symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the study finds. Unlike earlier studies on this topic which were conducted before social media, mobile apps and tablets existed, this study included digital media which Leventhal explains “has increased digital media exposure far beyond what’s been studied before.”

While the researchers acknowledge the study does not show causation there was a significant association between higher frequency of modern digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD over a two-year follow-up. 9.5 percent of the 114 children who used half the digital media platforms frequently and 10.5 percent of the 51 kids who used all 14 platforms frequently showed new ADHD symptoms. By contrast, 4.6 percent of the 495 students who were not frequent users of any digital activity showed ADHD symptoms, approximate to background rates of the disorder in the general population (via Science Daily).

Read the full news article from Science Daily 

Abstract

Importance  Modern digital platforms are easily accessible and intensely stimulating; it is unknown whether frequent use of digital media may be associated with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Objective  To determine whether the frequency of using digital media among 15- and 16-year-olds without significant ADHD symptoms is associated with subsequent occurrence of ADHD symptoms during a 24-month follow-up.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Longitudinal cohort of students in 10 Los Angeles County, California, high schools recruited through convenience sampling. Baseline and 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-up surveys were administered from September 2014 (10th grade) to December 2016 (12th grade). Of 4100 eligible students, 3051 10th-graders (74%) were surveyed at the baseline assessment.

Exposures  Self-reported use of 14 different modern digital media activities at a high-frequency rate over the preceding week was defined as many times a day (yes/no) and was summed in a cumulative index (range, 0-14).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Self-rated frequency of 18 ADHD symptoms (never/rare, sometimes, often, very often) in the 6 months preceding the survey. The total numbers of 9 inattentive symptoms (range, 0-9) and 9 hyperactive-impulsive symptoms (range, 0-9) that students rated as experiencing often or very often were calculated. Students who had reported experiencing often or very often 6 or more symptoms in either category were classified as being ADHD symptom-positive.

Results  Among the 2587 adolescents (63% eligible students; 54.4% girls; mean [SD] age 15.5 years [0.5 years]) who did not have significant symptoms of ADHD at baseline, the median follow-up was 22.6 months (interquartile range [IQR], 21.8-23.0, months). The mean (SD) number of baseline digital media activities used at a high-frequency rate was 3.62 (3.30); 1398 students (54.1%) indicated high frequency of checking social media, which was the most common media activity. High-frequency engagement in each additional digital media activity at baseline was associated with a significantly higher odds of having symptoms of ADHD across follow-ups. This association persisted after covariate adjustment. The 495 students who reported no high-frequency media use at baseline had a 4.6% mean rate of having ADHD symptoms across follow-ups vs 9.5% among the 114 who reported 7 high-frequency activities and vs 10.5% among the 51 students who reported 14 high-frequency activities.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among adolescents followed up over 2 years, there was a statistically significant but modest association between higher frequency of digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD. Further research is needed to determine whether this association is causal.

Full reference:

Ra CK, Cho J, Stone MD, et al |Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents| JAMA| 2018| 320| (3)|P.255–263|  doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8931

The article can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 

 

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US study uses phone app to screen for autism

Science Daily |June 2018 | Mobile app for autism screening yields useful data

A new US study that uses a smartphone app to screen young children for signs of autism has found the application produces reliable data. It was also accessible for children and praised by caregivers (via Science Daily).


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During the year-long  there were over 10000 downloads of the app; parents completed more than 5000 surveys and uploaded 4441 videos. These data were collected, 88 per cent of the videos yielding useful data.  The app uses video footage of the adolescents filmed while watching films and designed to identify patterns of emotion and attention, autism risk factors, on the device.  The videos are then analysed by behavioural coding software which tracks the child’s response and quantifies their emotions and attention.

A member of the research team Geraldine Dawson, Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, remarked “This demonstrates the feasibility of this approach.

“Many caregivers were willing to participate, the data were high quality and the video analysis algorithms produced results consistent with the scoring we produce in our autism program here at Duke.”

The full news article is available from Science Daily 
The study has now been published in the open access journal npj Digital Medicine. It can be accessed through Nature 

Full reference:

Egger, H. L. et al .| 2018| Automatic emotion and attention analysis of young children at home: a ResearchKit autism feasibility study |npj Digital Medicine| Vol. 1 |DOI: 10.1038/s41746-018-0024-6

The benefits of social media for young people in care

Until recently, it has been assumed that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp only pose a risk for young people in care. However, research now suggests that this vulnerable group can benefit from the psychological, emotional and social support gained via online networks. | University of East Anglia | story via ScienceDaily

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Researchers from the University of East Anglia have been looking at how young people living in state care can benefit from social media use. More than 100 visits to four residential care settings in England were made over a seven month period. During this time, in-depth observations on how 10 young people routinely used social media in their everyday lives were made. Focus groups and interviews with the young people and their social care professionals were also conducted.

The study found:

  • Having positive online networks helped young people in care gain ‘social capital’
  • Platforms like Facebook can contribute to increased self-esteem and mental well-being, which is particularly helpful for young people in care who frequently report feeling worthless, depressed and isolated
  • Social media gave young people the chance to network with organisations that could help them with opportunities for personal progression

Author, Dr S. Hammond said “This valuable piece of work makes clear the benefits of social media for looked after children and we welcome this contribution to the understanding of the impact of online. However, social networking carries risks as well as benefits and there is a responsibility on social media sites to make their platforms safe for their young users, including looked after children who can often be particularly vulnerable, so that they are free to enjoy the online world.”

Full reference:  Hammond, S. P. et al. |  Social Media, Social Capital and Adolescents Living in State Care: A Multi-Perspective and Multi-Method Qualitative Study. | The British Journal of Social Work | published online 02 February 2018

Full story at ScienceDaily

Online Mental Health Support For Young People

This report from the Education Policy Institute aims to provide insight into the efficacy of online counselling for children and young people. 

The report reviews the current literature on online counselling for children and young people. Through an analysis of local data it also assesses how young people respond to the Kooth model, an online counselling and emotional wellbeing platform, before setting out recommendations for further research.

The report  finds Kooth online counselling to be popular and effective in increasing access to care and providing choice. The anonymous nature of the service was found to be a big benefit for children and young people.

Full report: Online Mental Health Support for Young People

Feasibility of a UK community-based, eTherapy mental health service in Greater Manchester

There is increasing evidence to support the effectiveness of eTherapies for mental health, although limited data have been reported from community-based services | BMJ Open

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Results: Data indicated baseline differences, with the Breaking Free Online group having higher scores for depression and anxiety than the Living Life to the Full Interactive and Sleepio  groups. Promising improvements in mental health scores were found within all three groups, as were significant reductions in numbers of service users reaching clinical threshold scores for mental health difficulties. Number of days of engagement was not related to change from baseline for the Living Life to the Full or Sleepio programmes but was associated with degree of change for Breaking Free Online.

Conclusion: Data presented provide evidence for feasibility of this eTherapy delivery model in supporting service users with a range of mental health difficulties and suggest that eTherapies may be a useful addition to treatment offering in community-based services.

Full reference: Elison, S. et al. (2017) Feasibility of a UK community-based, eTherapy mental health service in Greater Manchester: repeated-measures and between-groups study of ‘Living Life to the Full Interactive’, ‘Sleepio’ and ‘Breaking Free Online’ at ‘Self Help Services’. BMJ Open. 7:e016392

Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world

Position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society

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Image source: r. nial bradshaw – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The digital landscape is evolving more quickly than research on the effects of screen media on the development, learning and family life of young children. This statement examines the potential benefits and risks of screen media in children under 5 years old, focusing on developmental, psychosocial and physical health. Evidence-based guidance to optimize and support children’s early media experiences involves four principles: minimizing, mitigating, mindfully using and modelling healthy use of screens. Knowing how young children learn and develop informs best practice strategies for health care providers.

Read the full statement here

Digital dating abuse especially bad for girls

Teens expect to experience some digital forms of abuse in dating, but girls may be suffering more severe emotional consequences than boys, according to a new study | ScienceDaily

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Researchers at the University of Michigan and University of California-Santa Barbara examined the impact of gender on high schoolers’ experience of digital dating abuse behaviors, which include use of cell phones or internet to harass, control, pressure or threaten a dating partner.

Overall, teens experience this digital dating abuse at similar rates, but girls reported that they were more upset by these behaviors and reported more negative emotional responses.

The survey asked teens to indicate the frequency of experiencing several problematic digital behaviors with a dating partner, including “pressured me to sext” (sending a sexual or naked photo), sent a threatening message, looked at private information to check up on me without permission, and monitored whereabouts and activities.

Girls indicated more frequent digital sexual coercion victimization, and girls and boys reported equal rates of digital monitoring and control, and digital direct aggression. When confronted with direct aggression, such as threats and rumor spreading, girls responded by blocking communication with their partner. Boys responded in similar fashion when they experienced digital monitoring and control behaviors, the study showed.

Boys often treat girls as sexual objects, which contributes to the higher rates of digital sexual coercion, as boys may feel entitled to have sexual power over girls, said study co-author Richard Tolman, U-M professor of social work.

Girls, on the other hand, are expected to prioritize relationships, which can lead to more jealousy and possessiveness, he said. Thus, they may be more likely to monitor boys’ activities.