Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

Connected realities – what do practitioners need to know about teens’ online lives?

“What if we thought about the internet a resource to be deployed rather than as a problem to be solved?” (Jenkins et al, 2016, p.36)  What if we move our focus from a deficit orientated understanding of the online lives of teens to an asset-orientated approach which builds on young people’s strengths? And what does this mean for practitioners working with teens who have mental health difficulties? Perhaps there are better ways of approaching teens’ online lives that enable us to be more effective practitioners. I am endlessly intrigued by teens’ use of the internet, social media and digital technologies. It is a fascination brought about in equal parts from observing my three teenagers and from the many and various projects we do with teens at mHabitat. I am particularly curious about how health and care practitioners help teens navigate the digital sphere (or not) in their everyday work. Practitioners are worried about the impact of social media on teens, concerned about risk, and at the same time drawn to how apps could help deliver care. Meanwhile teens are frustrated about adults’ lack of understanding about their online lives and are looking for guidance and support which is often lacking. This set of disconnected realities between teens and practitioners is the subject of a book I am writing with Dr James Woollard. It is a guide for practitioners to help them explore, understand and appreciate teens’ online lives; and to enable them to incorporate this understanding into their work with adolescents affected by mental health difficulties. The book will bring together the evidence along with stories derived from my...
I’m too old now to pretend to be something I’m not #TheProfileProject #12

I’m too old now to pretend to be something I’m not #TheProfileProject #12

Paul Taylor AKA @PaulBromford tells the story behind his Twitter profile picture: “In my early days on Twitter I kept the same avatar for a long time. I think because my profile was part of my ‘professional identity’ I played it safe and did one of those slightly cheesy and non-threatening smiley headshots. “I completely forget who it was, but someone messaged me and said that they loved my Twitter stream but my avatar looked like I was trying to sell them something! I was mortified at the time – as that kind of snake oil sales account is the exact opposite of how I wanted to be perceived. “Since then I’ve changed my avatar fairly regularly – depending on my mood and what’s important to me. I’m not too concerned about professionalism anymore – if my posts and tweets don’t speak for themselves I’m happy with that. I’m too old now to pretend to be something I’m not. “My current avatar was taken outside Angkor Wat in Cambodia at about 6 in the morning – it’s why I look slightly dishevelled. I love travelling and especially South East Asia. Most of the work I’m currently doing is around communities and empowering people to make change. I’m fascinated how some cultures – especially ones like Cambodia who’ve been to hell and back – harness the power of community to solve problems, often in the absence of paid ‘professionals’. “Next week though – it could be me with a robot.” You can find out more about #TheProfileProject here and connect on Twitter...
From online social networks to codesign in digital health

From online social networks to codesign in digital health

I set this blog up just over four years ago in January 2012 both to record my online ethnographic PhD research and with the hope of having conversations that would help inform my thinking and enable me to share my learning along the way. After four years of working full time, compressing five days into four and doing research on the extra day I’d squeezed out of the week, I finally had my viva on Friday. I passed the assessors’ grilling with four minor corrections and am basking in a profound sense of relief and delight in equal measure. My research was about online social networks and mental health with a heavy focus on the now departed The World of Mentalists blog and ecosystem around it. I have many people to be grateful to for in helping me think about this topic over the last four years. In particular I’d like to thank all my interviewees for sharing their time and expertise (you know who you are) and to everyone who welcomed me into the madosphere. I’d also like to thank Phil, Mark, Sue, James and Kat for many a Skype, phone call, meet up and often conference podium where we shared our thinking about mental health and online social networks with various audiences. During those four years  my interests have developed beyond online social networks to digital technologies in health, with a particular focus on co-design and ethics. I’ve clocked up 133 posts on this blog and recently changed its title  to reflect those broader interests. A few years ago I set up mHabitat which comprises an ever...
We do not communicate well with our younger generations #TheProfileProject #10

We do not communicate well with our younger generations #TheProfileProject #10

@FakeThom tells the story behind his Twitter profile picture: “My profile picture is a cartoon graphic representation of me to primarily accompany my YouTube channel, matching the channel’s artwork and house style. It was created by a friend William Leeks and kindly donated to my channel to help get it off the ground. The image depicts me in a white coat with a yellow stethoscope and blue hair, representing my real-life job as a children’s doctor in Scotland. Although I do not wear a white coat day-to-day, it helps add to the identity in the cartoon version of myself. “As a children’s doctor, I’m concerned we do not communicate well with our younger generations, who are light years ahead of us with how they access and consume information online. My vlog channel aims to deliver health education to the YouTube generation in an entertaining and informative way, with teenagers being the target audience. Currently my videos look mainly at mental health, but also include topics such as sleep. Future videos will expand into sex education and other health-related content that commonly affects adolescents. “A side project of the channel also uses Minecraft to deliver information to a younger audience. My profile picture will sometimes change to a blocky Minecraft version to promote this side of my output. The cartoon version of me you see in the profile picture will occasionally have changes in hair colour if I have recently dyed my hair, or will have a background colour change to hold interest. The bold and outlined nature of the Saved By The Bell-style drawing is eye-catching at thumbnail size so works well...
Is digital technology a technical or adaptive problem in health?

Is digital technology a technical or adaptive problem in health?

Around three years ago I was invited to speak at a consultant psychiatrists committee meeting about social media and digital technology. I was mid way through my PhD and steeped in online ethnographic research about how people accessing mental health services and practitioners were making use of social networks. I had an inkling that I would have a mixed audience and I knew that not everyone would share my (then*) enthusiasm. As such I spent time preparing a range of compelling examples of digital technologies and social media practices, determined as I was to win over any detractors. I arrived a little early and so listened in to the tail end of an exasperated discussion about the various grinding limitations, obstacles and shortcomings of the in-house electronic patient record (EPR). If my audience’s primary experience of technology in health was such a bad one, then this did not bode well for my presentation – I quickly realised I was going to have to recalibrate. How could I be so naive as to think a conversation about the future potential of digital technologies would be welcomed, when the basics of reliable and effective electronic patient records seemed like a pipe dream? This experience came back to me whilst reading The Digital Doctor – Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age (Wachter, 2015) which is dominated by an expansive analysis of the shortcomings of contemporary electronic patient records. Wachter argues that EPRs have brought many a physician ‘to their knees’ with their clunky, confusing and complex systems (73). It is salutary to note that three years on...