How much is too much when it comes to adolescents and social media?
Teens in the United States spend nearly nine hours of each day online. At least a third of that time is spent using social media, and that is rapidly increasing.
The number of teens engaged in problematic social media use — such as using social media after bedtime and cyberbullying — is growing, prompting a team of six Central Michigan University students to create an intervention for at-risk adolescents.
The undergraduate and graduate students designed the Development of Healthy Social Media Practices Intervention through the CMU Family Health Lab, under CMU psychology faculty member Sarah Domoff's direction.
“Our students are developing an intervention that could increase healthy social media use in adolescents. This has not yet been done in clinically referred youth.” — Sarah Domoff, CMU psychology faculty member
It is designed to promote healthy social media use for adolescents needing treatment and aims to decrease the risks involved with overusing social media.
"It is so fascinating that our society spends so much time using media, yet we rarely step back and think about the many effects that media may pose to our lives," said Chelsea Robinson, a senior exercise science kinesiology major from Plainwell, Michigan. "This intervention really aims to educate adolescents about the effects that media may have on them, which directly ties into my interests in public health."
Introducing the intervention
The intervention would help adolescents better understand the good and bad of social media use and its impact on their health and well-being.
Three separate sessions would improve how adolescents respond to social media content and usage by helping them develop coping and problem-solving skills.
The end goal? Adolescents will identify social media practices they want to change and then develop a plan to use social media more responsibly.
"The concept of using media seems so simple," Robinson said. "It seems like one could sum up the effects of media in a few sentences, yet we made three nearly 40-minute sessions out of the information we had."
The team will present the intervention proposal to clinicians in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for their review.
Psychology faculty member Sarah Domoff guides the discussion during a meeting of the student team developing an intervention to promote healthy social media use.
Tackling Tweets, likes, shares and swipes
Feedback from the clinicians and adolescents will help prepare the intervention for a large-scale study, Domoff said. It was designed so that clinical psychologists could adapt the individual assignments for outpatient therapists to use.
"Our students are developing an intervention that could increase healthy social media use in adolescents. This has not yet been done in clinically referred youth," she said. "We will be happy to share our intervention with any clinician in the hope that it could be implemented in outpatient and school settings."
This is a reason that school psychology doctoral student Sarah Brenner wanted to get involved with the project. She said adolescents are a key audience to focus on following recent news stories about children experiencing forms of cyberbullying.
"I think learning how social media affects our youth can lead to interventions targeting social media management to prevent some of these negative outcomes," said Brenner, of Cincinnati, Ohio.
In conducting the research for her intervention session, junior psychology major Rachel Gerrie said she found little information related to adolescents and social media addiction.
"Developing the module itself is just the tip of the iceberg with the issue we are looking into," said Gerrie, of Atlanta, Michigan. "I feel as though this project is something that is going to put my name out there and actually make a difference."