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How often do young people use the internet? What’s the role of their mobile phones? Get some of the key statistics on internet use from recent research into young people’s technology use, and some of the indications for it’s application to health and support services.

This will help you to:

  • understand key statistics on internet use
  • understand the frequency of use
  • consider the role of internet in service provision.
Girl with ring and black shirt using laptop

How often young people use the internet

In 2009, young people 8-18 years in the US spent an average of 7 ½ hours per day online, up from 6 ½ in 2004, with an estimated figure of 11 hours of media consumption when accounting for multitasking.1 Given that that study started before Twitter really took off, it's likely that the pervasiveness of online culture into the lives of young people has only increased. Dr Michael Rich, a paediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health and spoke at the release of the above study, concluded that it was time to stop arguing over whether it was good or bad and accept it as part of a child's environment, "like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat."

The 2009 Nielson Report How Teens Use Media2 concluded that teens actually use media less often than other age groups, continue to spend more time with traditional media than online "new" media, and spend less time online than adults. It estimated the monthly time online is nearly 28 hours per month for Australian teens, and nearly 25 hours per month for teens in the US, much less than the 40 plus hours spent by 35-55 year olds. The study concluded that this may well be because of the many other social, curricular and extra-curricular demands on a teen's time, as well as restricted access by financial situation, parents or schools. While estimates vary, it is clear that the Internet is a huge part of young lives.

Use of mobile phones

Australia has the second highest smartphone penetration in the world at 37%, according to research commissioned by Google in 2009.3 Over 80% of smartphone users were first time users who had bought their device less than 1 year before. Australian mental health providers and public health initiatives have an opportunity to lead the world in revolutionising service and message delivery through the rapidly expanding market of smartphones. The Bridging the Digital Divide Report,4 produced by ReachOut Australia in collaboration with Orygen Youth Health, concluded that "the uptake of mobile technology by young people provides great opportunities for organisations and services looking to use ICT (Information Communications Technology) to improve the mental health of young people experiencing social, economic and cultural marginalisation…". Examples of using smartphones to manage mental health include apps such as SuperBetter – a game for recovery, or Smiling Mind – a mindfulness meditation app.

Internet in health promotion and service provision

Online spaces and "new media" also have a vast potential in outreach, public health campaigns and advocacy. For example, ReachOut.com runs campaigns via Facebook to share ideas and raise awareness around topics such as stress, goal setting and life changes. The potential for similarly effective and innovative campaigns or apps tailored to improving mental health outcomes has been underutilised.

Future use of communications technology and online spaces by health professionals could provide valuable tools for crisis care, health management and mental health literacy. More information on new research and tools for young people, technology and wellbeing can be found via the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.

References

  1. Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18- Year-Olds, Program for the Study of Media and Health Publications 2010. Available at: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010pkg.cfm
  2. Accessed from: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2009/How-Teens-Use-Media.html
  3. Research by IPSOS Research, made available at: http://www.ourmobileplanet.com/
  4. 'Bridging the Digital Divide Report', Inspire Foundation and ORYGEN Youth Health, University of Melbourne, 2007. Available at: https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/publications/bridging-the-digital-divide

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