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Rogers Research Center studying adolescent social media usage

10/19/21 03:45:pm

Social media is a part of everyday life for most people, but, as we know, it is not always beneficial for our well-being.

Clinical insights reveal that individuals with mental illness, particularly adolescents, are using social media for extended periods of time and in ways that are negatively affecting them. Recent national news outlets have also underscored the potential for social media to worsen mental health conditions for teens and young adults.

Although it’s important to understand how patients are engaging on social media, Rogers does not currently obtain this information in standard assessments or clinical interviews.

Nadeau.jpg“Research in this area is just starting to emerge, and there is little agreement on an acceptable means of collecting or reporting meaningfully on this data,” says Josh Nadeau, PhD, senior clinical director in Tampa.

As the principal investigator, Dr. Nadeau is part of a new study at Rogers aiming to learn how social media usage can be quantified and potentially integrated into treatment.

What Rogers is working to discover

Here at Rogers, providers have become aware of many conflicts between adolescent patients and their parents over social media.

Lesser.jpg“Anything from arguments over when to shut off electronics to what they’re communicating out into the social world about their symptoms,” says Julie Lesser, MD, a psychiatrist in Minneapolis. “It led to interesting discussions, and we realized it’d be very unique at Rogers to have information from a clinical standpoint on the impact of social media.”

For instance, how are youth spending their time on social media? Are they doing things to improve their mood, or are they worsening their symptoms by ruminating and comparing themselves to others?

Facilitated by the Rogers Research Center, the study seeks to explore the frequency, basic usage patterns, and reasons adolescents use social media.

The research team will analyze data collected from the participants and their parents, and will evaluate how informed parents are on their child’s self-reported social media usage.

Additionally, the team developed a scale called the Functional Assessment of Social Media Use – Self Report. Adapted from a scale previously evaluated in the behavioral health field, it is an interpersonal inventory tool that is based on the responses patients provide to guided questions. Used during the assessment and treatment planning process, it will help the investigators interpret and discuss findings.

“We want to better understand how social media behaviors may be contributing to conditions or symptoms,” Dr. Nadeau says. “We believe that it is vital to integrate that information in a therapeutic way to enhance assessment and treatment.”

The study hypothesizes that as symptoms of depression or social anxiety increase, adolescents will be more likely to use social media to avoid tending to their mental health.

It also theorizes that with an increase in symptoms, parents will be less aware of the time their adolescent child spends on social media each day.

Implementing the study at Rogers

Supported by a $25,000 gift from the Once Upon a Time Foundation, the study will examine the social media behavior of teenagers ages 13 to 17 who admitted to Rogers in Oconomowoc, Tampa, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Nashville. Eligible participants must be receiving care for eating disorders, depression, or OCD and anxiety in partial hospitalization or residential programs.

Piacsek.jpg“The combination of adolescents and their parents in the study is a novel approach to evaluating parent-child agreement on social media use, and the potential for that understanding to either lead to conflict or support recovery,” says Kelly Piacsek, PhD, vice president, Research.

“Research involving minors always comes with some unique challenges, but we were excited to take on this important study that goes a step farther than working only with the children," she continues. "We are grateful for the teens and their parents who are participating in the study together, as they are helping generate important insights for future treatment strategies.”

“Our clinical staff observes all the time ways that our patients misuse social media, but we haven’t had a way to capture that information and to use it in a meaningful way,” Dr. Nadeau adds. “This is a way to put numbers to what staff are seeing and to find ways to appropriately adapt our treatment.”

Recruitment is underway, with a small number of families who have so far enrolled. Employees who are aware of families who might like to participate are encouraged to contact the Research Center at research@rogersbh.org.

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