Session 2: The digital world- Friend or Foe?

20 May 2022

Negative Impact of Social Media and the Need to Minimise Harm

The impact of social media is a double-edged sword – pros include greater connectivity while cons include negative effects on mental health, sleep and physical activity, as well as obesity. There are also challenges related to social comparison, bullying and social exclusion, access to pornography, the flow on impacts of poor mental health and school grades. Adult communities need to examine how to both care for and protect young people, while equally supporting their engagement and empowerment in the utilisation of digital media and social networking. This needs to be shaped in the context of the culture and rules for social media use that are propagated in young people's families, schools and communities.

Mental Health Engagement and Interventions in a Digital World

The BRAVE programme is an online cognitive behaviour therapy programme for child and adolescent anxiety, targeting those with anxiety disorders. Different models of care have been tested, with different advantages and disadvantages. Efficacy was found in having weekly therapist sessions and it is beneficial to include advisory and co-design panels, and have clear referral pathways. Improvements over time can include having guides for professionals and school teachers, adding clinician-based systems to the back-end, adding more visual progress charts for young people to keep track of their improvements over time and interactive, app-type tools to help them create their exposure hierarchies. Self-help programmes are best for moderate and mild cases of mental health concerns.

Disruptive Innovations in Mental Healthcare

Digital mental health treatment includes the use of online support groups, podcasts or blogs; wearable technology to help in monitoring activities and for individuals to understand how the data collected affects them, and using virtual reality, chatbots and gamified treatment experiences. Digital mental healthcare can help individuals overcome stigma and help adolescents better understand their own emotional wellbeing, and when or where to seek help. It can link patients seamlessly with healthcare providers and use artificial intelligence algorithms to right-site the patient. It can also assist policy makers, decision makers and clinicians to gain relevant data to drive research.