Monthly Archives: June 2016

High tech use linked to mental health issues

Teenagers who use the Internet, social media or electronic games excessively are more likely to experience mental health issues and engage in risk-taking behaviour, research suggests.

The survey of almost 3000 Australians aged between 11 and 17 years found 10 per cent used the Internet for more than nine hours a day during the week.

On weekends, 12 per cent were online for more than nine hours a day.

Telethon Kids Institute senior research analyst Wavne Rikkers says the study found about four per cent of young people—or 78,000 Australians—exhibit problematic behaviour related to the Internet or gaming.

“We found very strong links between that [problematic] behaviour and very high levels of psychological distress, suicide attempts and alcohol abuse,” she says.

“Whether or not they had problems using the Internet first and then they developed the psychological stress or whether they already had psychological problems and then they spent more time on the Internet, unfortunately we don’t know.”

The study used data from the second Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing and was published last month in the journal BMC Public Health.

  • 10 per cent of teenagers use the internet more than 9 hours a day
  • Study has found strong links between internet and gaming, problematic behaviour, and psychological distress, suicide and alcohol abuse.
  • 1/3 kids seek help for mental health problems online

Ms Rikkers encourages parents to sit down with their children if they are worried about their Internet or gaming time.

“It’s important to understand not just why kids are spending time online but what they’re actually doing online as well,” she says.

“Research shows that one in three kids seek help for mental health problems by going online so I think it’s good for parents to perhaps go online with the kids and get an idea for what the pattern of activity is.”

Boys and girls typically use the Internet in different ways, Ms Rikkers says.

“Girls tend to go online for social interaction or support or being connected whereas boys tend to go online more seeking information or for entertainment,” she says.

“We found a really, really high incidence of girls with psychological distress going online whereas with boys it tended to be boys that had conduct or hyperactivity problems…one looking for help, one looking for distraction.”

Ms Rikkers says doctors treating problem gaming or Internet use should “dig a little bit deeper”.

“Research in America has found that kids may present for one symptom and they get treated for that one symptom,” she says.

“We’d advise clinicians to treat the symptoms as a group and see what other problems the kids may have that they might not always volunteer.

What to look for

Teens were defined as having problematic Internet or gaming behaviour if they answered yes, fairly often or very often to at least four of the following five questions:

  • Do you go without eating or sleeping because of the Internet or electronic games?
  • Do you feel bothered when you cannot be on the Internet or play electronic games?
  • Do you catch yourself surfing the Internet or playing electronic games when you are not really interested?
  • Do you spend less time than you should with family or friends or doing school work/work because of the time you spent on the Internet or playing electronic games?
  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to spend less time on the Internet or playing electronic games?

Original article published by Science Network WA

By Teresa Belcher

Learning to lose is not easy

Learning to lose is one of the hardest lessons boys face as they grow up. Losing is not fun, it involves trying your absolute best, using every possible skill or move you have to try to outsmart, outrun or out-manoeuvre your opponents – but not succeeding. Losing can involve just missing the grade by a single point, half a second or one millimetre, or it can be an absolute “thrashing” where despite giving it your all, nothing has worked and the result is disastrous – which one of these is worse?

Boys are naturally competitive. Give them a ball and they will try to show they can throw it the longest or highest. Their eyes light up at the thought of competition, whether it is schoolyard cricket, classroom maths or a top-level sport’s competition – it is all or nothing for a lot of young boys, they give their all, but at times it is just not enough to get them to top of the ladder.

It is important for young boys to learn how to lose gracefully. Everyone wants to win, adults included – but life doesn’t work that way and boys need to learn how to deal with not always being in first place.

Losing is disappointing. Learning to lose gracefully involves learning to deal with emotions and controlling actions and reactions to missing out on first place. Every person has different talents and abilities, part of learning how to deal with not coming first includes understanding that you cannot be the best at everything. Learning how much effort, preparation, determination and skill can be needed to succeed is another eye-opener for boys learning about competition.

Tantrums should be left to two-year-olds, but when it comes to high-pressure situations on national sporting fields, adult competitors can still be seen swinging their arms and shouting at results – they are not great role models for kids but at least children can see that nobody is perfect when it comes to losing gracefully. When boys see this kind of behaviour on the field or on television, it is a great chance to start a conversation about good sportsmanship regardless of age or talent.

At the end of the day, a child’s effort on the sporting field or in other competitions is the most important factor. Young boys need to be encouraged to try their best – if they get to the end of the game having tried their best then they have been successful – despite the score.

Simple ways boys can be good sports

Be polite during competition – respect opponents and don’t belittle or “trash talk” them

Learn the rules of the game and abide by them. Play fair and to the best of your ability (don’t cheat)

Try not to argue with officials – wait until break times or after the game to revise the decision with your coach or the official

Shake hands or high five with opponents at the end of every game – whether it is a win or a loss – it shows respect for all players and the effort they have put into the competition

Cheer for teammates regardless of the score – encouragement helps to keep momentum

Be willing to be replaced in the game – the coach makes the decisions and players need to be able to deal with them even if they believe they are not right

Don’t blame teammates for losses – look back at the performance of the team as a whole and try to come up with strategies to better your performance next time




Empathic boys make better friends

Empathic boys are more likely to have close female friends than those with little empathy, new research says.

An Australian Catholic University study released this week shows teenage girls choose friendships with boys based on their levels of empathy in relationships.

The study, which involved nearly 2000 15-year-old students from East Coast schools, used questioning and ranking techniques to identify close friendships amongst peers in the study.

Students were asked to rank their top five male and female friends. On average boys with high cognitive empathy (capacity to comprehend the emotions of another person) attracted 1.8 more female friendships compared to those boys with low levels of empathy.

In contrast, boys did not see empathy as a major factor in defining close friendships with girls, however, most wanted their other male friends to have similar empathy levels to themselves.

“The more friendship nominations a boy received from either boys or girls, the more they felt supported by their friends; the number of friendship nominations received by girls, in contrast, had no effect on their felt support by friends,” ACU Institute for Positive Psychology and Education professor Joseph Ciarrochi says.

“Regardless of the quantity of friendship nominations, empathy was linked to more supportive friendships for both males and females,” he adds.

Prof. Ciarrochi says the study shows the importance of friendships in adolescent lives.

“Friends are essential to positive adolescent development.”

“It’s well established that in addition to providing companionship, close friendships promote the development of interpersonal skills, learning and growth.”

“Having friends has also been linked with lower rates of depression, and to people feeling good about themselves.”

“This research suggests it is critical to identify and teach young people the skills they need to develop supportive friendships. To that end, our study provides a contextual understanding of the role of empathy in selecting and maintaining friendships.”


Rough and tumble play is good for boys

The importance of rough and tumble play for young boys has long been heralded as benefiting boys’ development.

University of Newcastle Fathers and Families Research Program head Dr Richard Fletcher has spent many years researching the impact rough and tumble play can have on a child’s ability to self-regulate their behaviour, display self-control and take appropriate risk.

He says rough and tumble play affects brain development, as displayed in research of animals involved in this kind of play.

Rough and tumble play with parents enables boys to take calculated risk and learn how to control their behaviours in a safe environment through regulating their actions during play.

Rough and tumble play is not fighting – to some it may be perceived this way, but rather it is an opportunity for boys to experience high-energy play with parents or other children which enables them to take turns “winning and losing” and to stop the situation if it becomes too much.

University of Sunshine Coast associate lecturer in early childhood education Dr Jennifer Hart says the biggest difference between rough and tumble play and real violence is intent.

“Children who are engaged in serious violence or aggression have intent to harm one another or damage property, whereas in playful aggression there is no intent to harm, they are playing with the intentions of keeping each other safe.”

In an interview with the Brisbane Times, Dr Hart says rough and tumble play, usually in the form of “superhero” play, helps boys develop gross motor skills as well as social skills.

Dr Fletcher says rough and tumble play helps boys in the classroom, giving them a better ability to pay attention to the task at hand.

Rough and tumble play encourages concentration and restraint which are key attributes needed by students in the classroom.