Blog, Staff Spotlights

SMAHRTies Take On New Years Resolutions

By Anna Jolliff, MS

Before the break, we talked about an evidence-based approach to making (and keeping) New Year’s Resolutions. Today, I’ll be reviewing the perspectives of different SMAHRTies on this same topic. As a bit of a spoiler, I was happy to discover that most of our thinking was supported by research!

I talked with four staff, and everyone had one thing in common when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions: they generally don’t make them. (Or at least, not at the New Year). Staff described goals that emerge at different points throughout the year, and changes they are working on continuously. Some resolutions are constrained to 30 days, while others last well over 365.


Two staff spoke to the importance of only selecting resolutions which align with existing, personal standards and expectations. (These goals are “self-concordant,” as we learned in Part 1). For example, one SMAHRTie mentioned that she is interested in texting less and calling more. This is based on a personal self-observation that calling, while less automatic, is actually more enjoyable for her. This goal is self-concordant.

It’s far easier to arrive at self-concordant goals with self-reflection. One staff is participating in a month-long self-reflection challenge at her yoga studio, the goal of which is simply to determine if there is anything she wants to change. I love this approach; rather than presuming a problem, why not investigate? You wouldn’t take your car to the shop unless the “check engine” light was on or the brakes were squeaking. (Well at least, I wouldn’t; those two indicators fully exhaust my automotive knowledge.)

In essence: the individual perspectives of SMAHRTies align with what the research tells us. Resolutions should be self-concordant, rather than the result of external influence. Furthermore, context can and should support resolutions – but you’re in charge of the context. Make resolutions as you come by them honestly and naturally, whether that be on January 1st or the middle of July.

Whatever your approach to resolutions: thank you for sharing the New Year with us!

Blog, Uncategorized

An Evidence-based Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

By Anna Jolliff, MS

With the New Year fast approaching, it’s that time when many people start to consider their New Year’s Resolutions. Others reject the idea, declaring that resolutions “never work anyway.”  Still others have written resolutions in previous years, but have come to realize that even their best-intentioned resolutions seldom come to fruition.

New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap. At their core, New Year’s resolutions are not intrinsically different from any other resolution to change behavior. Just like any other time of year, behavior change on January 1st requires a motivation to change and a plan for implementation (Koestner, Lekes, Powers, & Chicoine, 2002). However, there are some contextual factors specific to the New Year that affect both of these important variables.

2019 2

  1. Contextual Influence on Motivation

January 1st is the time of year when people may feel they are “supposed” to enact change. Maybe their friends are doing it, or maybe it’s all over social media or advertisements. These feelings of “should” or “supposed to” lead to “external” or “introjected” goals – goals that emerge from external pressure.  Research suggests this type of goal is most likely to fail, while goals that are self-concordant (i.e., I want to do this because it’s important to me and/or I would enjoy the outcome) are more likely to be met (Sheldon & Elliot, 1998).

  1. Contextual Influence on Implementation

Another contextual factor threatens the implementation of the goal. You’ve probably heard it said that it’s important to have a “plan” — but the extent to which a plan requires time and energy to prepare is less often discussed. (“Preparation!” does not make a flashy headline or an easy sales pitch).  The timing of the New Year – when one is likely swamped with family commitments, off their regular schedule, or just returning to work – may not exactly be conducive to thoughtful planning. To avoid feeling rushed into major changes, Dr. Moreno suggests giving pieces of your plan a “practice run.” (For example, if you want to eliminate meat from your diet on January 1st, try your hand at a couple of vegetarian meals in the meantime!)

  1. Making it Work

So how do you escape the trap of externally-derived goals and half-hearted implementation? Ask yourself a couple of questions pertaining to the source and the implementation of the goal:

Source Questions

  1. Am I making a goal because I am supposed to? (I.e., is the source of my motivation external?)
  2. Do I feel like this goal “belongs” to me, or did I adopt it from someone or something else?
    1. Don’t overthink this. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole, trying to differentiate innate from learned preferences. Go with your gut-level response to the question J

Implementation Questions

  1. How will I make this behavior automatic? Plans work when they move goal-directed behavior out of conscious awareness (Gollwitzer, 1999).
  2. What are my where, when, and how? Establishing the context for the goal-directed behavior offloads decision-making onto the environment.
    1. For example, if my goal is to automatically write in my journal every day, I might decide to journal at my desk, in the morning, with my favorite pen. When all those conditions are met, the environment tells me it’s time to write!

For our part, the SMAHRT team sees the New Year as an opportunity to review our current processes. We want to know what’s working now, and what can work even better. We hope you will join us at SMAHRT in thoughtfully implementing your goals in 2019.


Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: strong effects of simple plans. American psychologist, 54(7), 493.

Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T. A., & Chicoine, E. (2002). Attaining personal goals: self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(1), 231.

Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Not all personal goals are personal: Comparing autonomous and controlled reasons for goals as predictors of effort and attainment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(5), 546-557.


Study of the Month

A novel approach to evaluating mobile smartphone screen time for iPhones: feasibility and preliminary findings

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

Today, smartphone ownership has increased even among teens and adolescents. Media usage among these age groups is a hot topic of research, however, current research methods used to evaluate teen and adolescent screen time pose some challenges.

The common methods used to understand screen time are self-reporting and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). EMA is comprised of repeated sampling of a subject’s experiences and behaviors in real time and in their natural environments. A disadvantage to self-reporting is that it can be exposed to bias. When self-reporting, participants might over or under estimate their app use, making the data inconsistent. On the other hand, EMA requires participants to complete multiple tasks a day. Participants are likely busy and are unable to commit to such a large time commitment, making this method burdensome.

This study proposes the use of a new methodology, the Battery Use Screenshot (BUS). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of the BUS methodology.

To analyze its feasibility, the BUS method was implemented into a larger study that was looking at technology rules and health behaviors among younger adolescents. Participants of the larger study were asked to complete a survey, which included uploading a screenshot of their battery use. The data from the battery screenshots was analyzed to determine their most frequently used apps/functions. This study found that Safari was the most commonly used app. The other frequently used apps/functions can be seen below.

Infographic page 1

Infographic page 2

The data showed that the BUS approach allowed for an easier way for both participants and researchers to keep track of media usage, unlike self-reporting and EMA. Along with its strengths, this method does have its weaknesses. Of the participants that owned a smartphone, only half of them were willing or able to upload their screenshot. The reason for this weakness could be caused by a variety of factors. One factor is the age group of participants. Or that Qualtrics surveys are completed on computers and not smartphones.  Another possibility could be the amount of compensation provided for participating.

Another hurdle with this study was that there were participants who uploaded incomplete data. This could be attributed to which type of iOS operating system participants were using. Older versions didn’t show all of the criteria that the study observed.

Overall, this approach offers a potential avenue for researchers to both improve upon and eventually find the best ways to monitor app use in real-time. In further studies, this BUS approach could be adapted to Android phones as well.

The use of the Battery Use Screenshot methodology could provide researchers with accurate media use data to further answer questions on the effects of media use and health outcomes among young teens and adolescents.


Find the full article here.

Infinite Scrolling, a blog post by Jim Smalley, urges readers to take a, “social media vacation.” He explains how to check battery usage to see which apps are being used the most. He was using the Battery Use Screenshot methodology.

Study of the Month

Recreational cannabis business pages on social media: A content analysis applying the Washington Administrative Code

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

In 2012, Washington State legalized recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21. This legislation brought up concerns about adolescents’ consumption of marijuana. There are many consequences of marijuana use among this group which include difficulties in school, memory loss, and the use of other drugs.

A big concern was how marijuana businesses were promoting themselves and their products on social media. Adolescent’s frequent use of social media could make them vulnerable to these messages about marijuana use. Social media allows for followers to engage with content by liking or sharing a post.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board Washington Administrative Code 314-55-155 (WAC) implemented advertising restrictions for marijuana businesses.

Washington Administrative Code 314-55-155 (WAC)

These regulations banned language that promoted:

  1. Overconsumption
  2. Curative or therapeutic effects
  3. Appeal to youth

They also required that every message must include warnings about:

  1. The risks of intoxication
  2. Driving under the influence
  3. Health risks
  4. Prohibiting underage use

The purpose of this study was to analyze whether marijuana businesses were adhering to these restrictions on their social media pages. It also looked at whether the use of the warnings decreased engagement with their social media content.

This study used a content analysis on posts on Facebook and Twitter pages of recreational marijuana businesses in Washington State. Posts were from December 1, 2015 – November 30, 2016. The businesses were identified through searches on Facebook and Twitter. The website Weedmaps was also used to locate businesses. To be included in the study they had to be located in Washington State and had both social media profiles since 2015. Thirty-eight businesses were identified.

The results of the study are as follows:

Overconsumption: Seventeen posts out of 1027 (1.7%) used language that promoted overconsumption. Seven of the 17 posts came from one company’s Twitter.

Curative or therapeutic effects: 137 posts (13.3%) promoted curative or therapeutic effects. A majority of these posts were about stress relief (11.8%) and the rest were saying that their product would help treat certain medical conditions (1.6%). Of the posts about stress relief, 105 of them came from one company. Also of the posts about treating medical conditions, 11 of the posts came from one company.

Youth appeal: Nine posts (0.88%) were using techniques to appeal to youth. Eight of them included an image appealing to youth and one of them actually included a picture of a youth.

Warnings: 110 posts (10.7%) included all of the warnings required of them. When comparing the engagement of posts with and without the warnings, this study found that there was no statistically significant differences between the number of likes or shares between posts that included or didn’t include the warnings.

This study showed that most marijuana businesses were consistent with the WAC regulations that prohibited overconsumption, treatment effects and youth appeal. However, there were some businesses in each category that disregarded the prohibited content. There is also evidence that few businesses were providing the required warnings. Those that did include the warning were not placing it in the same spot on every post.

These findings show that social media users who follow marijuana businesses pages may be exposed to at least one WAC category of prohibited content and they may never see a required warning. This finding is a concern because those followers may include adolescents.

There are many policy approaches that could provide solutions to this concern. One is to age-gate marijuana business pages. “Age-gating” means that each person will have to indicate their age before gaining access to the page. Another solution could include fines for violations of the regulations. There could also be a way to report content to social media companies, similar to bullying or other offensive content.

Study of the Month

Perspectives on smartphone ownership and use by early adolescents

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

Parents now have to decide the age in which their child should receive a smartphone, due to the rise in technology use among early adolescents. Previous research has shown that smartphones typically enter a child’s life in their “tweens”. There are many opinions for parents to drawn from as to which age is appropriate, but there is little evidence to back up these claims. It is also not known how tweens feel about smartphone ownership.

This study aimed to discuss smartphone ownership and use with early adolescents to further understand their perspectives.

Focus groups were conducted to collect qualitative data on tween perspectives’ of smartphone ownership and use. The data showed three main themes and two minor themes. The three main themes, maturity, deference to parents and accountability, were applied to three areas of focus.

Those areas of focus were…

  1. When an adolescent was ready to have their smartphone
  2. How a smartphone should be obtained
  3. Ongoing care and maintenance of a smartphone

The first major theme, maturity, frequently came up in reference to the first focus. Tweens felt that there was not an appropriate age when it comes to smartphone ownership. They expressed that maturity should be the deciding factor. Tweens described maturity as achieving certain milestones, such as joining more clubs or sports outside of school. In regards to the second focus, participants suggested that smartphone ownership should be a need and not a want. They also felt that with maturity comes responsibility. Being able to take care of the smartphone was a necessity for ownership in the eyes of the tweens.

Deference to parents was the second major theme. Tweens expressed that parents should be the ones to make the final decision of when their child should receive a smartphone. Many of the participants received smartphones in a variety of different ways, and most of them were happy with how their parents went about it. Tweens also addressed that their parents should have specific guidelines when it comes to smartphone use. These guidelines could include, setting a time limit per day, no phones before bed, or checking content on their phone. Early adolescents observed that there should be restrictions, but those restrictions should be very specific and enforced.

The last major theme was accountability. In terms of receiving a smartphone, tweens felt that they should be able to hold themselves accountable for avoiding negative aspects of media use, such as cyberbullying or addiction. Tweens also suggested that they be financially responsible for some costs that go along with owning a smartphone. Along with financial responsibility, they also expressed that if they were to misplace or break their smartphone they should be held accountable.

This study found three major themes, but it also had hints of two minor themes throughout focus groups. The minor themes discredited a few assumptions about tweens and smartphones. The first minor theme was that tweens wanted to start the conversation about getting a smartphone. The second minor theme was that not all tweens were using their smartphones the same way. Differences could be seen across demographic groups and individuals.

This study is meant to inform parents about tweens’ perceptions of smartphone ownership. These themes can be a tool for parents when their tween wants to discuss smartphone ownership.

Perspective on smartphone ownership and use by early adolescents can be found in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Perspectives on smartphone ownership and use by early adolescents
Megan A Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH,Bradley R Kerr, MS1 Marina Jenkins, BS,1
Esther Lam,BS2 Faisal Malik, MD, MPH,2, 3
1Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
2University of Washington, Seattle, WA
3Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, WA



The Youth Health Social Media Project

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

Last month, our team officially launched a new project with Facebook that looks at technology use among teens in regards to their health.

“The purpose of the project is to advance our understanding of how specific interactions with technology, that we know are common among teens, how those interactions are linked to health and wellness”, explains Dr. Moreno.

The SMARHTeam frequently collaborates with other researchers on projects. Kole Binger, Associate Research Specialist, explains that these collaborations are part of Dr. Moreno’s philosophy on how to build a research team.

“[Dr. Moreno] emphasizes that if you are coming at something from one angle, you are not going to be able to evolve. The diversity of backgrounds on our team and the diversity of who we are working with is important to make sure we are getting all angles of a research question”, said Binger.

Previous collaborations have included academic research scientists. This is the first time that a SMAHRT collaborator has been an industry partner.

Aubrey Gower, Associate Research Specialist, believes that combining research and industry will be beneficial. Each of these entities have been conducting their own research for a long time, but when there is a similar interest, such as public health, the combination of research and industry can really benefit the public.

This project will study teens’ interactions with technology related to their health, which will build on previous research in these areas. Those other studies tend to focus on specific platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, to evaluate their relationship with adolescent health outcomes.

This project differs from those others because it allows the team to dig deeper, by taking a broader look into those interactions.

“Let’s not limit this to platforms, let’s look at specific interactions across different platforms and let’s look more broadly at elements of health and wellness”, explained Dr. Moreno.

This new collaboration with Facebook provides lots of opportunities for SMAHRT. The team is really excited to be working on this project. Binger is looking forward to gaining a better understanding of who may be affected by digital technology and what way they are affected.

Gower is eager to understand why teens and adolescents may use technology. “We usually analyze frequency, but we have yet to discover if using it provides something for teens. It’s so engrained in our lives so it must be providing something”, said Gower.

When asked what she is looking forward to, Dr. Moreno explained that after the data collection is complete and preliminary analyses are done, they will open the data set for other researchers. This open access will provide an opportunity for other researchers to ask their important questions, providing us the opportunity to learn even more.

SMAHRTeam members, Dr. Moreno, Kole Binger, Aubrey Gower and Anna Joliff attended the Facebook Youth Wellbeing Summit earlier this month in New York City, NY.


Summer Research Scholars 2018 Highlights

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

On the morning of July 23rd, 10 high school students from across the Madison area arrived at the Health Sciences Learning Center (HSLC), ready to dive into the week-long research program.

When they entered the room that first day, they were introduced to the team and their fellow scholars. Everyone got to know each other a little better through some ice breakers. Just before lunch, mentor groups began discussing how to compose a research proposal idea. Some students came in with a few ideas, others began brainstorming and observing themselves and their peers. They were all trying to find a topic that evaluated a link between social media and a health outcome.

As the week went on, scholars continued to immerse themselves in learning the steps of the research process. After the scholars ran their research proposals by SMAHRT’s P.I., Dr. Megan Moreno, they began learning the about the next step, data collection. Data collection could be conducted by creating a survey, observational interviews, or a content analysis. The scholars got to learn about each method and then choose the one they thought would be fit their proposal. Most of the 2018 scholars chose to create and administer a survey, but there were a few that wanted to do a content analysis. Learning about and starting data collection consumed the second day.

In the middle of the week, scholars got to go on tours around the UW-Madison Campus. In the morning, the students had the chance to talk with a Med Flight R.N. and witness a helicopter take off on a call. For lunch, faculty members with all different backgrounds came to answer the scholar’s questions about academics, college applications, scholarships and career paths. Thank you to Dr. Olufunmilula Abraham, Natalie Guerrero, and Felice Resnick for providing insights into the

ir research careers. After lunch, the scholars headed on to the UW-Madison Campus, this time to tour and brainstorm video game ideas with Gear Learning. Finally, on the way back to the HSLC, they stopped to walk through the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. 

On the fourth day, the scholars arrived refreshed and ready to continue working on their projects. Data collection was wrapping up, which meant that they could begin analyzing their results. They analyzed their data by making charts or graphs to represent their findings. They were getting more and more excited about their projects because they were able to talk to their mentors and other scholars about what they had found.

The rest of the fourth day and the beginning of the fifth day were devoted to creating their research posters. The Summer Research Scholars program provides high school students with the opportunity to present their research to UW-Madison faculty and staff at a poster session, just like Undergraduates and Researchers present their posters. The scholars presented their posters on the last day of the program. The research posters were riddled with bright colors and incredible research. It was such a delight to get to hear the scholars give their presentations and explain why they were passionate about their research.

The SMAHRTeam learned so much from the scholars. The team enjoys spending a week every summer to work with such incredible students. Thank you to the scholars, their families, and their teachers and administrators for making the program so memorable.


Summer Research Scholars Daily Schedule

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

Our favorite time of the summer is rapidly approaching. The Summer Research Scholars (SRS) program will begin on July 23rd through the 27th.

SMAHRT created this program in 2015 when the team was located in Seattle, Washington. The team made the move to UW-Madison in August 2017. SRS 2018 will be the first time the program is in the Midwest. Throughout the week, Scholars from all over the Madison area will be given the opportunity to gain hands on experience with research about health and media.

Below is a broad overview of the scholar’s daily schedule. SMAHRT is so excited to get know these wonderful students.

Staff Spotlights

Staff Spotlight: Aubrey Gower

By Maggie Bushman/ Communications Intern

Aubrey Gower would truly like to be known as a forever intern. Aubrey started her SMAHRT career as an Undergraduate Research Intern at the University of Washington. Four years later, she is now a full time SMAHRTie.

When she was in her fall quarter of sophomore year, Aubrey was seeking research experience. At this point in time, she had not had any prior experience and didn’t really know how to approach the research process. Initially, she was looking for bench lab research, such as neurobiology among other areas. Aubrey remembered reading SMAHRT’s description amongst all the other research lab positions. “I thought it was really interesting because at the time I was pursuing psychology and biology and I always liked the duality of those two…”, said Aubrey. SMAHRT seemed to cover both of her interests in biology and behavior, straying away from bench research.


After applying, Aubrey was interviewed and enjoyed everything about the team. SMAHRT’s interview process allows for each team member to meet the potential new member. She liked that everyone had their own individual projects and interests. As an undergraduate, Aubrey was interested in drug research. At the time of her interview, SMAHRT was conducting a lot of studies on alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. When Aubrey left the office that day she felt as though she had met her people. The start of Aubrey’s SMAHRT career began with a combination of circumstances, but she fell into it a little backwards. She began by looking for bench research, but she feels it worked out better for her to be involved in adolescent health and technology research.


Although Aubrey feels like a forever intern, she is now an Associate Research Specialist. Throughout the course of her 4 years with SMAHRT she evolved into more leadership and mentorship roles. This evolved naturally while she was taking on these bigger tasks. Aubrey is now in a full time position, leading projects, attending meetings, and continuing to mentor students on and outside of the team. “I do genuinely consider myself a forever intern because I feel like I am always learning, kind of like when I was an intern”, said Aubrey. She feels like she is always absorbing new information or skills. Aubrey believes that you can never know too much, there will always be something new to learn.


Aubrey continues to learn at and outside of work. She is in the midst of applying to medical school. Her overall goal is to become an Adolescent Health Specialist. Aubrey wants to work with underserved youth, particularly urban youth. She also wants to pursue a Masters of Public Health (MPH) so she will be able to work in a clinic as well as conduct research. Her work with SMAHRT has exposed different health behaviors and outcomes that are relevant to adolescents, which has spurred some of her career and research interests.


One of her favorite projects was one that she worked on while still in undergrad. The study was called Investigating Washington State Marijuana Business Presence on Social Media. It looked at local business’ marijuana advertising in Seattle. The study investigated if the advertisements appealed to youth and whether marijuana companies were using tactics similar to those of Tobacco companies. This is Aubrey’s favorite project because she got to witness the entire research process, from grant writing to developing the codebook. This was also a very collaborative project and the team members that worked on this study still stay in touch today. Recently, Aubrey had the opportunity to present a part of this study at the Pediatric Academic Society (PAS) Conference this year in Toronto.


Aubrey’s time at SMAHRT has been riddled with learning experiences. The most important lesson that she has learned is the fact that there is always more to learn. Research is fun because you need to find something that is innovative, while looking at the topic from different perspectives. “I always go into it assuming I come away with something new and also at the same time I get to understand either populations or health behaviors that interest me”, said Aubrey. Her advice to beginning researchers is that you should never be satisfied with just one answer.  You should seek out as many perspectives that you can, and collaborate as much as you can.


Blog, Scholar Spotlights

Danny’s Advice for Scholars

By Danny Pham/ SMAHRT Intern & Scholars Alum
Summer Scholars 2015
Danny Pham – bottom left- with other Scholars in 2015.

I was a Summer Scholar when I was entering my junior year of high school. I remember feeling intimidated at first, I hadn’t done a program like this before. However, over the course of the week I came to realize that I knew more about research that I thought, though there was still plenty for me to learn.

The Summer Scholar’s program involves developing an independent project. For my own independent project, I did a content analysis of Twitter posts that used #breastcancer or #prostatecancer. I was interested in seeing if there were different discussions online between those cancers. Presenting my research was one of the highlights for me; sharing knowledge is probably next to tennis on my list of favorite things to do.

One of the most important lessons I learned from Summer Scholars is “whatever you put in is what you’ll get out”…so here are a couple pieces of advice that helped me put in my all.