Category Archives: Social Media

A new form of self-harm: cyberbullying yourself

I hadn’t heard this one before, according to this new paper a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern. The behavior: ‘digital self-harm’ or ‘self-trolling,’ where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help. This new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem and I was quite surprised to see that in a big sample 6% actually did this kind of self-harm.

From the press release:

Adolescents harming themselves with cuts, scratches or burns has gained a lot of attention over the years not just because of the physical damage and internal turmoil, but also because it has been linked to suicide. More recently, a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern, warns a researcher and bullying expert from Florida Atlantic University.

The behavior: “digital self-harm,” “self-trolling,” or “self-cyberbullying,” where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help.

A new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem.

“The idea that someone would cyberbully themselves first gained public attention with the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in 2013 after she anonymously sent herself hurtful messages on a social media platform just weeks before she took her own life,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We knew we had to study this empirically, and I was stunned to discover that about 1 in 20 middle- and high-school-age students have bullied themselves online. This finding was totally unexpected, even though I’ve been studying cyberbullying for almost 15 years.”

Hinduja and his collaborator from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., recently published results of their study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

They used a nationally representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in the United States to find out how many youth participated in digital self-harm, as well as their motivations for such behavior. They also examined if certain correlates of offline self-harm also applied to digital forms of self-harm.

Results of the study show that nearly 6 percent of the teens reported that they had anonymously posted something mean about themselves online. Among these, about half (51.3 percent) said they did it just once, about one-third (35.5 percent) said they did it a few times, while 13.2 percent said they had done it many times.

Boys were more likely to participate in this behavior (7 percent) compared to girls (5 percent). Their reasons, however, varied dramatically. Boys described their behavior as a joke or a way to get attention while girls said they did it because they were depressed or psychologically hurt. This finding is especially worrisome for the researchers as there may be more of a possibility that this behavior among girls leads to attempted or completed suicide.

To ascertain motivations behind the behavior, the researchers included an open-ended question asking respondents to tell them why they had engaged in digital self-harm. Most comments centered around certain themes: self-hate; attention seeking; depressive symptoms; feeling suicidal; to be funny; and to see if anyone would react. Qualitative data from the study showed that many who had participated in digital self-harm were looking for a response.

Age and race of the respondents did not differentiate participation in digital self-harm, but other factors did. Teens who identified as non-heterosexual were three times more likely to bully themselves online. In addition, victims of cyberbullying were nearly 12 times as likely to have cyberbullied themselves compared to those who were not victims. Those who reported using drugs or participating in deviance, had depressive symptoms, or had previously engaged in self-harm behaviors offline were all significantly more likely to have engaged in digital self-harm.

“Prior research has shown that self-harm and depression are linked to increased risk for suicide and so, like physical self-harm and depression, we need to closely look at the possibility that digital self-harm behaviors might precede suicide attempts,” said Hinduja. “We need to refrain from demonizing those who bully, and come to terms with the troubling fact that in certain cases the aggressor and target may be one and the same. What is more, their self-cyberbullying behavior may indicate a deep need for social and clinical support.”

Abstract of the study:

Purpose

Despite increased media and scholarly attention to digital forms of aggression directed toward adolescents by their peers (e.g., cyberbullying), very little research has explored digital aggression directed toward oneself. “Digital self-harm” is the anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself. The current study examined the extent of digital self-harm among adolescents.

Methods

Survey data were obtained in 2016 from a nationally representative sample of 5,593 American middle and high school students (12–17 years old). Logistic regression analysis was used to identify correlates of participation in digital self-harm. Qualitative responses were also reviewed to better understand motivations for digital self-harm.

Results

About 6% of students have anonymously posted something online about themselves that was mean. Males were significantly more likely to report participation (7.1% compared to 5.3%). Several statistically significant correlates of involvement in digital self-harm were identified, including sexual orientation, experience with school bullying and cyberbullying, drug use, participation in various forms of adolescent deviance, and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

Digital self-harm is a new problem that demands additional scholarly attention. A deeper inquiry as to the motivations behind this behavior, and how it correlates to offline self-harm and suicidal ideation, can help direct mental health professionals toward informed prevention approaches.

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One for my students: phones keep you from concentrating during lectures

Yesterday I said to one of my students that it was pointless to sit in my class if you are so busy with your phone. He was so busy it even distracted me. I should have mentioned this new study – a combination of a meta-review and new data -, but I only read if afterwards. But let’s be honest: we’ve known this for quite a while.

The study in short:

 

  • Media use (MU) and academic performance (AP) studies omit subject area comparison.
  • Sample populations tend to be biased toward social science programs.•
  • Data show differences in the type and frequency of MU across subject areas.
  • Differences between MU and AP correlations were found for different subject areas.
  • MU is a stronger predictor of AP for students in the soft sciences.

 

From the press release (I skipped the digital native part for obvious reasons):

The researchers say it shouldn’t be surprising that university lecturers are encouraged to develop blended learning initiatives and bring tech — videos, podcasts, Facebook pages, etc. — into the classroom more and more to offer students the enhanced experiences enabled by digital media.

They warn, however, that an important effect of these initiatives has been to establish media use during university lectures as the norm.

“Studies by ourselves and researchers across the world show that students constantly use their phones when they are in class.

“But here’s the kicker: if you think they are following the lecture slides or engaging in debates about the topic you are mistaken. In fact, this is hardly ever the case. When students use their phones during lectures they do it to communicate with friends, engage in social networks, watch YouTube videos or just browse around the web to follow their interests.”

The researchers say there are two primary reasons why this form of behaviour is problematic from a cognitive control and learning perspective.

“The first is that when we engage in multitasking our performance on the primary task suffers. Making sense of lecture content is very difficult when you switch attention to your phone every five minutes. A strong body of evidence supports this, showing that media use during lectures is associated with lower academic performance.”

“The second reason is that it harms students’ ability to concentrate on any particular thing for an extended period of time. They become accustomed to switching to alternative streams of stimuli at increasingly short intervals. The moment the lecture fails to engage or becomes difficult to follow, the phones come out.”

The researchers say awareness of this trend has prompted some lecturers, even at leading tech-oriented universities like MIT in the United States, to declare their lectures device-free in an attempt to cultivate engagement, attentiveness and, ultimately, critical thinking skills among their students.

“No one can deny that mobile computing devices make our lives easier and more fun in a myriad of ways. But, in the face of all the connectedness and entertainment they offer, we should be mindful of the costs.”

The researchers encourage educational policy makers and lecturers, in particular, to consider the implications of their decisions with a much deeper awareness of the dynamics between technology use and the cognitive functions which enable us to learn.

Abstract of the paper:

The current generation of university students display an increasing propensity for media multitasking behaviour with digital devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. A growing body of empirical evidence has shown that this behaviour is associated with reduced academic performance. In this study it is proposed that the subject area within which an individual is situated may influence the relationship between media multitasking and academic performance. This proposition is evaluated, firstly, by means of a meta-review of prior studies in this area and, secondly, through a survey-based study of 1678 students at a large university in South Africa. Our findings suggest that little or no attention has been paid to variations between students from different subject areas in previous work and, based on our data, that subject area does influence the relationship between media use and academic performance. The study found that while a significant negative correlation exists between in-lecture media use and academic performance for students in the Arts and Social Sciences, the same pattern is not observable for students in the faculties of Engineering, Economic and Management Sciences, and Medical and Health Sciences.

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The meaning and qualities of friendship offline and online

The worst thing Marc Zuckerberg ever did is calling connections on Facebook ‘friends’, but still that doesn’t mean friendship doesn’t exist online or doesn’t mean a thing. Many parents worry about how much time teenagers spend texting, sharing selfies and engaging in other online activities with their friends. However, according to a recent research synthesis, many of these digital behaviors serve the same purpose and encompass the same core qualities as face-to-face relationships.

From the press release:

“Increased peer interaction in cyberspace has led to growing concern that today’s adolescent friendships are now less intimate and an inadequate substitute for those back in the day that took place in person,” said Stephanie Reich, UCI associate professor of education and co-author of the study. “Many contacts between adolescents are mediated through technology and can provide additional opportunities for friends to spend time together, share thoughts and display affection than in offline spaces alone.”

Reich, along with Ph.D. student and lead author Joanna Yau, identified six core characteristics of offline friendships — self-disclosure, validation, companionship, instrumental support, conflict and conflict resolution — and their digital parallels. For each quality, they noted ways in which online interfaces corresponded with or differed from in-person communication. The results are detailed in the May issue of Adolescent Research Review.

Reich and Yau found that digital exchanges offer more benefits in some areas and carry increased risks in others. On the plus side, online contact enhances companionship between friends via conversations that can continue throughout the day and night without disrupting others, and it also allows more time to control emotions and calm down before crafting and sending a response to something upsetting. Conversely, friendships can be damaged by gossip and rumors, which spread much faster and farther through cyberspace.

“Digital communication may increase the ramifications of conduct due to the permanence of information and the speed by which it travels, but at the core, friendships seem to have the same key characteristics,” Reich said. “The majority of adolescents interact electronically most often with individuals they consider friends offline. So rather than reducing intimacy in these relationships, technology-mediated communication may provide additional benefits to teens as connections occur both face-to-face and online.”

Abstract of the study:

Today’s youth often connect with friends online. Although decades of research have explored the core qualities of face-to-face friendships, less is known about how these qualities differ when friends interact via technology. Through a synthesis of research on friendship in digital spaces, we examine whether the core qualities of face-to-face friendships are evident in cyberspace. Six key components of friendships were identified from the large canon of research on friendships and studies that addressed these topics (i.e., self-disclosure, validation, companionship, instrumental support, conflict, and conflict resolution) were reviewed. The findings suggest that, while peer interactions in online spaces may be novel, the core qualities of friendships identified in research on offline spaces persist. Future research directions are identified.

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New study confirms: cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation

It’s something I’ve known from other studies, but this new research from the University of Warwick, published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, confirms it: cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying — and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims.

In short:

  • Cyberbullying doesn’t create large numbers of new victims
  • Most bullying is face-to-face – with cyberbullying used as a modern tool to supplement traditional forms
  • 29% of UK teenagers reported being bullied – only 1% were victims of cyberbullying alone
  • Bullying intervention strategies should focus on traditional bullying as well as cyberbullying

From the press release:

Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11-16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online”, “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission”, or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

However, those who were bullied by multiple means – direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined – demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying – as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

Professor Wolke comments:

“Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

“Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

Abstract of the study:

Cyberbullying has been portrayed as a rising ‘epidemic’ amongst children and adolescents. But does it create many new victims beyond those already bullied with traditional means (physical, relational)? Our aim was to determine whether cyberbullying creates uniquely new victims, and whether it has similar impact upon psychological and behavioral outcomes for adolescents, beyond those experienced by traditional victims. This study assessed 2745 pupils, aged 11–16, from UK secondary schools. Pupils completed an electronic survey that measured bullying involvement, self-esteem and behavioral problems. Twenty-nine percent reported being bullied but only 1% of adolescents were pure cyber-victims (i.e., not also bullied traditionally). Compared to direct or relational victims, cyber-victimization had similar negative effects on behavior (z = −0.41) and self-esteem (z = −0.22) compared to those not involved in bullying. However, those bullied by multiple means (poly-victims) had the most difficulties with behavior (z = −0.94) and lowest self-esteem (z = −0.78). Cyberbullying creates few new victims, but is mainly a new tool to harm victims already bullied by traditional means. Cyberbullying extends the reach of bullying beyond the school gate. Intervention strategies against cyberbullying may need to include approaches against traditional bullying and its root causes to be successful.

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Is how we use Facebook influenced by our genes?

It was Jan De Mol who sent me this study, but while the title of the press release suggests a big effect of genes on how we use sociale media, I for myself thought it would have been even bigger.

From the press release:

Access to and engagement with online media continues to grow at an unprecedented speed, and it plays an increasingly important role in the development and experience of people across all age groups. Nonetheless, people differ substantially in their use of online media and researchers are interested in finding out why people differ so much. For instance, do genetic differences between people affect their engagement with online media?

Published in PLOS ONE, the study looked at online media use in more than 8,500 16-year-old twins from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). By comparing identical twins (who share 100 per cent of their genes) and non-identical twins (who share 50 per cent of their genes), the researchers were able to estimate the relative contribution of genes and environment on individual differences in engagement with a range of online media, including games for entertainment and education, as well as time spent on chat rooms, instant messaging platforms and Facebook.

Heritability was substantial for time spent on all types of media including entertainment (37 per cent) and educational (34 per cent) media, online gaming (39 per cent) and social networking (24 per cent). Heritability describes the degree to which differences between children — in this case their use of online media — can be attributed to inherited genetic factors, rather than the effects of their environment.

In addition, unique environmental factors accounted for nearly two-thirds of the differences between people in online media use. Unique environmental factors could include varying access to media sources within a family, such as one sibling having a personal mobile phone and the other not, or parents monitoring use of social networks more heavily for one sibling compared to the other.

Together, these findings challenge the belief that people are passively exposed to media and instead support a view that people tailor their online media use based on their own unique genetic predispositions (a concept known as gene-environment correlation).

Ziada Ayorech, first author of the study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, said: ‘Our findings contradict popular media effects theories, which typically view the media as an external entity that has some effect — either good or bad — on ‘helpless’ consumers. Finding that DNA differences substantially influence how individuals interact with the media puts the consumer in the driver’s seat, selecting and modifying their media exposure according to their needs.’

Professor Robert Plomin, senior author from the IoPPN at King’s College London, said: ‘The key component of this gene-environment correlation is choice, such that individuals are not simply passive recipients of their environment but instead actively select their experiences and these selections are correlated with their genetic propensities.’

These results raise questions about personalised media and the extent to which social media ‘filter bubbles’ only expose us to information that supports our own point of view, while sheltering us from conflicting arguments.

However, Professor Plomin points out that individual differences would still play an integral role here: ‘Where one person may seek online media that only supports their views, another may choose to also explore conflicting viewpoints.’

Abstract of the study:

Online media use has become an increasingly important behavioral domain over the past decade. However, studies into the etiology of individual differences in media use have focused primarily on pathological use. Here, for the first time, we test the genetic influences on online media use in a UK representative sample of 16 year old twins, who were assessed on time spent on educational (N = 2,585 twin pairs) and entertainment websites (N = 2,614 twin pairs), time spent gaming online (N = 2,635 twin pairs), and Facebook use (N = 4,333 twin pairs). Heritability was substantial for all forms of online media use, ranging from 34% for educational sites to 37% for entertainment sites and 39% for gaming. Furthermore, genetics accounted for 24% of the variance in Facebook use. Our results support an active model of the environment, where young people choose their online engagements in line with their genetic propensities.

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How a selfie can make you feel happier (study)

To many people selfies are sign of the present narcissism. And pictures like this don’t help it:

But this new study does give some consolation: regularly snapping selfies with your smartphone and sharing photos with your friends can help make you a happier person.

Wait, this is the opposite of the idea that social media can make you more depressed? Well, we already saw it is a bit more complicated than that. This new study is quite interesting and has both a lot of data and a very limited amount of people involved. The latter is the weakest element of this study, imho.

From the press release:

By conducting exercises via smartphone photo technology and gauging users’ psychological and emotional states, the researchers found that the daily taking and sharing of certain types of images can positively affect people. The results of the study out of UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences were published recently in the Psychology of Well-Being.

“Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture taking and sharing can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it,” said lead author Yu Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in UCI’s Department of Informatics. “This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure.”

These stressors — financial difficulties, being away from home for the first time, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and the rigors of coursework — can negatively impact students’ academic performance and lead to depression.

“The good news is that despite their susceptibility to strain, most college students constantly carry around a mobile device, which can be used for stress relief,” Chen said. “Added to that are many applications and social media tools that make it easy to produce and send images.”

The goal of the study, she said, was to help researchers understand the effects of photo taking on well-being in three areas: self-perception, in which people manipulated positive facial expressions; self-efficacy, in which they did things to make themselves happy; and pro-social, in which people did things to make others happy.

Chen and her colleagues designed and conducted a four-week study involving 41 college students. The subjects — 28 female and 13 male — were instructed to continue their normal day-to-day activities (going to class, doing schoolwork, meeting with friends, etc.) while taking part in the research.

But first each was invited to the informatics lab for an informal interview and to fill out a general questionnaire and consent form. The scientists helped students load a survey app onto their phones to document their moods during the first “control” week of the study. Participants used a different app to take photos and record their emotional states over the following three-week “intervention” phase.

Subjects reported their moods three times a day using the smartphone apps. In evening surveys, they were asked to provide details of any significant events that may have affected their emotions during the course of the day.

The project involved three types of photos to help the researchers determine how smiling, reflecting and giving to others might impact users’ moods. The first was a selfie, to be taken daily while smiling. The second was an image of something that made the photo taker happy. The third was a picture of something the photographer believed would bring happiness to another person (which was then sent to that person). Participants were randomly assigned to take photos of one type.

Researchers collected nearly 2,900 mood measurements during the study and found that subjects in all three groups experienced increased positive moods. Some participants in the selfie group reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiling photos over time. The students taking photos of objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative. And those who took photos to make others happy became calmer and said that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.

“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use, and we look very carefully at these issues here at UCI,” said senior author Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics. “But there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users.”

Abstract of the study:

Background
With the increasing quality of smartphone cameras, taking photos has become ubiquitous. This paper investigates how smartphone photography can be leveraged to help individuals increase their positive affect.

Methods
Applying findings from positive psychology, we designed and conducted a 4-week study with 41 participants. Participants were instructed to take one photo every day in one of the following three conditions: a selfie photo with a smiling expression, a photo of something that would make oneself happy and a photo of something that would make another person happy.

Findings
After 3 weeks, participants’ positive affect in all conditions increased. Those who took photos to make others happy became much less aroused. Qualitative results showed that those in the selfie group observed changes in their smile over time; the group taking photos to improve their own affect became more reflective and those taking photos for others found that connecting with family members and friends helped to relieve stress.

Conclusions
The findings can offer insights for designers to create systems that enhance emotional well-being.

 

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What PokemonGo could learn from education

Hypes come and go and while I do hope to remember this summer as also the summer of PokemonGo – besides the summer of terror -, it seems that this popular game is already losing a lot of its appeal. At first the servers couldn’t handle the success, but now even the biggest fans seem to get more and more disappointed. And as those users have the feeling that every single update makes the game worse, the same users have suggestions to make things better for Niantic, the company behind PokemonGo. But that will probably be in vain as a user notes on Reddit:

I see a lot of very interesting suggestions constantly popping up in this sub and it breaks my heart to think that Niantic will probably thoroughly ignore them. At least if they keep behaving like they did with us Ingress players.

As you already know, Niantic is very bad at communication as well as interacting with the fans. They follow their own agenda and don’t really give a shit about what the players really want. When they were developing Ingress, it always felt as if nobody in their team was actually playing the game seriously; for example it took them about a year to give us a simple item count in the inventory.

Oh, but wait. I recognize this. That’s called bad education. Great teachers never ignore their students. It doesn’t mean that they only do what their students want – no please -, but that they explain why if they won’t. We call this interaction and communication. Or to put it more blunt: they care about their students. And yes, I know there are still teachers around who don’t act like this, but they are seldom used as a good example for others in education. PokemonGo was used several times as a great example for education.

Maybe Yang Lui is correct when he thinks Niantic and PokemonGo is all about profit and money, and I want to add: it’s also probably all about the quick win.

Anybody surprised? Didn’t you see the stock exchange when the hype started, incorrectly booming because people thought Nintendo would make huge profits straightaway because of the game?

It’s great that it made people move (literally), but…

Education is never about the quick win. Education is not a hype.

We’ll never see or think back about a ‘summer of education’.

We are still growing in the consecutive decades of education for all.

Maybe this makes education sound a bit boring, but that’s because education is meant to last.

PokemonGo probably isn’t.

But if Niantic wants to be in it for the long run, maybe they could have a look at education…

 

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Study in Finland shows link between school burnout and excessive internet use

When I first read the title of the press release, some alarm bells started ringing. First: the concept of school burnout seemed invented, but a search proved me wrong. Still, it’s kind of a relatively “newish” concept. Secondly: internet addiction is often used as concept, but too often without a real – read clinical – diagnosis. I was correct, the study didn’t mention addiction, but is talking about excessive internet usage. The study is based on data garthered during Mind the Gap, a longitudinal research project funded by the Academy of Finland. The researchers established a link between digital addiction and school burnout in both comprehensive school and upper secondary school students. The results of the Finnish study were published in May 2016 in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

From the press release:

The findings show that via school burnout, adolescents’ excessive internet use can ultimately lead to depression. Exposure to digital addiction is most likely to happen if the adolescent loses interest in school and feels cynicism towards school.

Fostering enthusiasm for learning is paramount

The research suggests that the most critical stage for tackling the problem of digital addiction and school burnout is age 13-15. The most effective way of supporting adolescents’ mental health and preventing excessive internet use is to promote school engagement, to build up students’ motivation to learn, and to prevent school burnout.

Depressive symptoms and school burnout in late adolescence are more common among girls than boys. Boys suffer more from excessive Internet use than girls.

The study was carried out among Helsinki adolescents aged 12-14 and 16-18. The former group of early adolescents consisted of lower-school 6th graders born in 2000. The late adolescents were first-year upper secondary school students born in 1997. In all more than 3,000 Helsinki adolescents from 33 lower schools and 18 upper secondary schools took part. The Academy-funded project is the first longitudinal study exploring the reciprocal associations between excessive internet use, school engagement, school burnout and depression among adolescents. Today’s young people are described as ‘digital natives’: they are the first generation who have grown up with mobile devices and social media.

The digital transformation has two facets. On the one hand, earlier research has shown that the internet provides important and pleasurable social experiences that are useful in later studies and eventually in the workplace. The pedagogical use of digital technology can also engage and inspire young people to take an interest in science and technology. On the other hand, digital addiction can also cause burnout in adolescents and even lead to depression.

Abstract of the study:

Recent research shows an increased concern with well-being at school and potential problems associated with students’ use of socio-digital technologies, i.e., the mobile devices, computers, social media, and the Internet. Simultaneously with supporting creative social activities, socio-digital participation may also lead to compulsive and addictive behavioral patterns affecting both general and school-related mental health problems. Using two longitudinal data waves gathered among 1702 (53 % female) early (age 12–14) and 1636 (64 % female) late (age 16–18) Finnish adolescents, we examined cross-lagged paths between excessive internet use, school engagement and burnout, and depressive symptoms. Structural equation modeling revealed reciprocal cross-lagged paths between excessive internet use and school burnout among both adolescent groups: school burnout predicted later excessive internet use and excessive internet use predicted later school burnout. Reciprocal paths between school burnout and depressive symptoms were also found. Girls typically suffered more than boys from depressive symptoms and, in late adolescence, school burnout. Boys, in turn, more typically suffered from excessive internet use. These results show that, among adolescents, excessive internet use can be a cause of school burnout that can later spill over to depressive symptoms.

 

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A different kind of multitasking: kids who text and watch TV simultaneously likely to underperform at school

Multitasking is a bad idea, no really, and we know it can be bad for learning. But this new study looks at both a somewhat strange and interesting correlation: kids who text and watch TV simultaneously likely to underperform at school. And yes, I wrote correlation.

Abstract of the study:

The more time teenagers spend splitting their attention between various devices such as their phones, video games or TV, the lower their test scores in math and English tend to be. More time spent multitasking between different types of media is also associated with greater impulsivity and a poorer working memory in adolescents, says Amy S. Finn of the University of Toronto. Finn was one of the leaders of a study on the topic published in Springer’s journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

According to Finn, the term “media multitasking” describes the act of using multiple media simultaneously, such as having the television on in the background while texting on a smartphone. While it has been on the rise over the past two decades, especially among adolescents, its influence on cognition, performance at school, and personality has not been assessed before.

To do so, a Media Use Questionnaire was administered to 73 eighth grade students living in the greater Boston area. It asked them how many hours per week they spent watching television or videos, listening to music, playing video games, for reading print or electronic media, talking on the phone, using instant or text messaging, creating crafts or writing. Participants rated how often they combined these with another such activity. Aspects of their working memory, their manual dexterity and vocabulary, and their levels of grit, conscientiousness and impulsiveness were also tested. Participants were also asked whether they believed that their ability was fixed or could be improved. The researchers ascertained the 73 students’ scholastic performance by looking at their 2012 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores in English and math.

Overall, participants reported consuming a great deal of media, and on average watched 12 hours of television per week. They tended to multitask between mediums 25 percent of the time.

The results show how participants’ media consumption patterns outside of school are related to their performance in school tests. Teenagers who spent more time media multitasking fared significantly worse academically than others. They scored lower in certain aspects of their working memory, tended to be more impulsive and were more likely to believe that intelligence is not malleable. These results extend previous findings from adults and suggest that the relationships between cognitive abilities and media multitasking are already established by middle adolescence.

“We found a link between greater media multitasking and worse academic outcomes in adolescents. This relationship may be due to decreased executive functions and increased impulsiveness–both previously associated with both greater media multitasking and worse academic outcomes,” summarises Finn.

Improving scholastic performance isn’t just a simple matter of regulating the amount of time that teenagers spend watching television, playing video games or using their phones. “The direction of causality is difficult to establish. For example, media multitasking may be a consequence of underlying cognitive differences and not vice versa,” says Finn. Future research with larger samples may shed light on the causal link.

Abstract of the study:

Media use has been on the rise in adolescents overall, and in particular, the amount of media multitasking-multiple media consumed simultaneously, such as having a text message conversation while watching TV-has been increasing. In adults, heavy media multitasking has been linked with poorer performance on a number of laboratory measures of cognition, but no relationship has yet been established between media-multitasking behavior and real-world outcomes. Examining individual differences across a group of adolescents, we found that more frequent media multitasking in daily life was associated with poorer performance on statewide standardized achievement tests of math and English in the classroom, poorer performance on behavioral measures of executive function (working memory capacity) in the laboratory, and traits of greater impulsivity and lesser growth mindset. Greater media multitasking had a relatively circumscribed set of associations, and was not related to behavioral measures of cognitive processing speed, implicit learning, or manual dexterity, or to traits of grit and conscientiousness. Thus, individual differences in adolescent media multitasking were related to specific differences in executive function and in performance on real-world academic achievement measures: More media multitasking was associated with poorer executive function ability, worse academic achievement, and a reduced growth mindset.

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So you’re attached to your phone, what does this say about you?

8 out of 10 12-year old kids on our country has a smartphone, and Belgium is no exception. At all.  But have you noticed that some people frequently check and re-check their mobile phones. Maybe you do yourself? A new study by psychologists Henry Wilmer and Jason Chein of Temple University in the US and are published in Springer’s journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review sheds some light on why people do this: people who constantly check and use their mobile devices throughout the day may be more impatient and impulsive. Even worse: once the impulse is triggered, it may be more a question of not being able to leave the device alone than actually hoping to gain some reward from it.

Do note that students were used for this study – as often is the case – and that the sample size is relatively low.

From the press release:

A better understanding of the impact of smartphone and mobile technology usage is needed to assess the potential problems associated with heavy use. Although these electronic devices are playing an increasingly pervasive role in our daily activities, little research has been done about a possible link between usage behaviour and specific mental processes and traits. Therefore, Wilmer and Chein set out to determine if people who report heavier mobile technology use might also have different tendencies towards delaying gratification than others, or might exhibit individual differences in impulse control and in responding to rewards.

Ninety-one undergraduate students completed a battery of questionnaires and cognitive tests. They indicated how much time they spent using their phones for social media purposes, to post public status updates, and to simply check their devices. Each student’s tendency to delay gratification in favour of larger, later rewards (their so-called intertemporal preference) was also assessed. They were given hypothetical choices between a smaller sum of money offered immediately or a larger sum to be received at a later time. Participants also completed tasks that assessed their ability to control their impulses. Finally, participants’ tendencies to pursue rewarding stimuli were also assessed.

The results provide evidence that people who constantly check and use their mobile devices throughout the day are less apt to delay gratification.

“Mobile technology habits, such as frequent checking, seem to be driven most strongly by uncontrolled impulses and not by the desire to pursue rewards,” says Wilmer, who adds that the findings provide correlational evidence that increased use of portable electronic devices is associated with poor impulse control and a tendency to devalue delayed rewards.

“The findings provide important insights regarding the individual difference factors that relate to technology engagement,” adds Chein. “These findings are consistent with the common perception that frequent smartphone use goes hand in hand with impatience and impulsivity.”

Abstract of the study:

Mobile electronic devices are playing an increas- ingly pervasive role in our daily activities. Yet, there has been very little empirical research investigating how mobile technology habits might relate to individual differences in cognition and affect. The research presented in this paper pro- vides evidence that heavier investment in mobile devices is correlated with a relatively weaker tendency to delay gratifi- cation (as measured by a delay discounting task) and a greater inclination toward impulsive behavior (i.e., weaker impulse control, assessed behaviorally and through self-report) but is not related to individual differences in sensitivity to reward. Analyses further demonstrated that individual variation in im- pulse control mediates the relationship between mobile tech- nology usage and delay of gratification. Although based on correlational results, these findings lend some backing to con- cerns that increased use of portable electronic devices could have negative impacts on impulse control and the ability to appropriately valuate delayed rewards.

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