Perceptions of young adults’ problematic technology use among Australian youth professionals

Abstract

The effects of excessive and problematic technology use on young people’s mental health has not been explored from the perspective of those who work closely with youth in a professional capacity. This study reports on findings from focus group interviews with 22 professionals in the fields of education, counselling and mental health, community and housing, social work, and drug and alcohol services. Most problems participants observed related to video gaming (predominantly amongst men) and social media use (predominantly amongst women). Participants perceived most harms to be related to social or psychological difficulties such as relationship breakdowns, isolation, low self-confidence, depressive symptoms, and unrealistic expectations of success. More tangible harms relating to homelessness, physical fighting resulting from online exclusion, and sleep disturbances leading to absence from school and work commitments were also reported, albeit less frequently. The relationship between technology use and poor psychosocial outcomes was conceptualised as being complex and often cyclic in nature, whereby disadvantage and family dynamics were often predictive of problems. Most services did not formally screen for technology-related problems, however many were interested in upskilling by way of training, awareness, and implementation of screening measures and formal referral procedures. This research suggests that young people are presenting with technology-related problems but that more needs to be done to provide youth services and organisations with adequate support to identify and assist with these issues.

Bibliographic citation

Keen, B., & Gainsbury, S. (2021). Perceptions of young adults’ problematic technology use among Australian youth professionals. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(1), Article 8. doi:https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2021-1-8

Keywords

Video gaming; social media; online; technology-related problems; mental health; youth; young adults

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https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2021-1-8