Blog, Scholar Spotlights

Scholars Spotlight: Kyle Yu

By Maggie Bushman: Associate Research Specialist

The Summer Research Scholars program is geared towards high school students, but the opportunities don’t end when the week does. Students have the ability to come back as alumni mentors, youth advisory board members, and even interns.

Kyle Yu began his journey with SMAHRT as a sophomore in high school. He participated in our 2016 Summer Research Scholars (SRS) program while it was still in Seattle. Three years later he is back with the SMAHRTeam in a whole new role in a whole new city.

Now, Kyle is spending his summer in Madison, WI as one of SMAHRT’s research interns. Instead of only having a week to complete a research project on the fly, he has a whole summer to conduct his own research while simultaneously working on some of the team’s current projects.

He attributes the ease of jumping in to a new team role to the SRS program.

“Building off of this program I did a couple years ago and being able to complete a project at a larger scale has been really helpful to kind of introduce myself to the research process. Having that experience beforehand really helped,” Kyle said.

(left to right): 2016 Scholars Alumni Novi Kaur, Kyle Yu, Alicia Siedal, Siang Dim, and Mentor Brad

The SRS program laid the research ground work for Kyle. The program walks high school students through their own projects relating to social media and adolescent health. Scholars are briefly taught about the steps of the research process, but most of the learning is done through hands-on experience.

Kyle’s original project that he conducted during the 2016 SRS program looked at the relationship between using social media to stay connected vs allowing it to detract from one-on-one interactions.

“There is such a good benefit, but there is also such a big negative,” Kyle explained.

While on the team this summer Kyle is conducting another individual project. This time he is diving deeper into some of the negative impacts of internet use.

His current project focuses on parent and teen internet usage expectations. He is looking at the specific internet rules that parents put in place for their children and whether or not the children actually follow these restrictions. He is also interested to see if these behaviors, paired with the content these children are viewing, leads to problematic internet use (PIU).

This past week, Kyle helped another set of scholars with their projects as both an alumni mentor and research intern. When asked to reflect on any advice he would give to the 2019 scholars, Kyle came up with two key aspects to keep in mind.

         1. Keep in touch with the scholars you meet this week

 Connecting with the other scholars can be helpful even outside of the program.

“I still do see them sometimes in Seattle and a lot of them go to [the University of Washington]. It’s really cool to run into them,” he explains.

         2. Keep in touch with the SMAHRTeam

“Being with the SMAHRTeam opens the door to so many other opportunities, like the Youth Advisory Board and coming back and interning,” Kyle said.

What once began as a week-long research program morphed into a summer research internship for Kyle. Now with two independent projects almost complete he is ready to take on more research opportunities as he begins his sophomore year of college.

2016 Summer Research Scholars

“I can use this experience and what I’ve learned through the research process and apply it to other positions that I may have as well as finding other lab positions after I leave for the summer,” Kyle said.



Consent in Research: An Ethical Dilemma

Today’s article is from guest blogger and fellow SMAHRTie, Anna Jolliff, MS 

I spent last week representing SMAHRT at the ACM Interaction Design and Children Conference in Boise, Idaho. This conference focused on a topic area that is perhaps one step to the left of SMAHRT’s research: human-computer interaction. In comparison with other conferences attended by SMAHRTies, there were many more experts in computer science and human-centered design in the room. Needless to say, I learned a lot.

One of my favorite sessions was a panel on ethics, where we discussed issues such as how to ethically research embodiment, cultural differences, or subjects about which the researcher has preconceived ideas (which is to say, most subjects; after all, we’re only human!).

I was particularly fascinated by our discussion of consent. This is a weighty topic these days, as it should be, and it is equally weighty in the field of human subjects research. When is it appropriate to request consent? When is requiring consent actually problematic? And how have existing standards for consent shaped our body of research?

The topic of consent is particularly thorny when it comes to vulnerable populations, including adolescents under 18, people with disabilities, and older folks. Most pertinent to the work done at SMAHRT is the question of gaining the consent of adolescents. Specifically, our goal to receive informed consent or assent from all participants is often at odds with our desire to maximize the inclusiveness and representativeness of our findings.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

In grade school, many of us likely received permission or consent forms to take home to our parents. Routing that consent form to mom or dad was perhaps hard to remember, but for many of us easy enough. However, the ease with which we could pass off a bit of paperwork to mom or dad was actually a hallmark of privilege. That simple prerogative – all slips must be returned by Friday – is not actually so simple for many young kids.

Both in school and in the research lab, children may struggle to obtain parental permission. Perhaps participants don’t live with their parents, either because they are in foster care, because their parents are sick or incarcerated, because they are estranged from their parents, or for another reason. Complicating matters, many institutional review boards – bodies which review the ethics of research protocols – do not consider a guardian’s signature to be a sufficient substitute for a parent’s.

Even participants who live with their parents mind encounter difficulties, if child and parent are seldom at home and awake simultaneously. You can imagine how common this scenario might be for children whose parents work night shifts or odd hours, which is more common in certain socioeconomic brackets.

Even these scenarios presume that a parent would grant permission if they could. Although school fieldtrips or syllabi may easily garner a signature, many topics that are deserving of research may not. For example, a child who wants to participate in research that focuses on LGBTQ populations, or populations who have suffered abuse, may not be willing or able to tell mom and dad of their desire to participate. Alternatively, parents with an undocumented immigration status may be hesitant to return signed forms. In these cases, admitting to being a qualifying participant could actually put the child or parent at further risk. It seems like we can’t afford to include these kids; but can we afford to leave them out?

Photo by yunona uritsky on Unsplash

In practice, what are the implications of this ethical dilemma? For one, it means that children most deserving of research are less often recruited by researchers, who are trying to avoid institutional red tape as well as ethical breaches and real child endangerment. Consequently, our research-based understanding of adolescents – the things we presume are true of all kids – actually only pertains to those with a certain type of privilege. In the same way that much social psychology “knowledge” actually just reflects truths about 4-year college students, so our knowledge of adolescents largely applies to those with non-marginalized identities in stable homes.

As often happens in discussions of ethics, the question of solutions and next steps is a daunting one. To their credit, many funding bodies at the public and private level have incentivized research on protected populations, presumably in part to counterbalance the difficulty in studying these groups. Many institutional review boards are aware of this issue, and open to discussing waivers of parental consent in certain cases. Furthermore, academic reviewers of journal articles or conference submissions are taking a closer look at their applicants’ subject pools, and challenging researchers to go beyond the most convenient sample available.

At SMAHRT, we are always looking for ways to broaden and diversify our reach. We’ve studied Native American youth and their health educators, as well as nontraditional students in community college settings. Our Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness program (TAM) seeks to fund those projects which study diverse and understudied populations. Still, as a team and as a research community, there is much work to be done.

In the meantime, it is wise to be wary of the results you see reported in both popular news and academic sources. Although measures like those described may work to reverse the bias towards privileged populations, we are far from a body of adolescent health research that truly represents everyone.


Does research ever make people mad?

By Anna Jolliff, MS

Last week, a couple of SMAHRTies had the privilege of visiting a local high school to discuss research and tell teens about our summer research program for teens, Summer Research Scholars (SRS). SRS gives teens the opportunity to conduct their own independent research project and familiarize themselves with careers in the health sciences.  After we introduced the class to one of our core areas of research at SMAHRT – technology use and misuse – one student asked: “Do your findings ever make people mad?”

This a great question. At SMAHRT, we read and discuss news stories, popular videos, and academic articles on a weekly basis that debate whether technology use is something to get “mad” about. There isn’t a clear answer. Some scientists, journalists, and other community members argue that technology irreversibly (and frighteningly) changes our brains, while others argue that we don’t yet have sufficient evidence for that yet. Some say that we should be worried that the current generation of adolescents “never looksup from their phones,” while others say that the general decline in other risky behaviors (alcohol use, unsafe sex) more than makes up for the proliferation of time spent on Instagram and Snapchat. Some argue that we are “addicted” to our phones, while others say we are addicted instead to what phones can provide: nearly constant social interaction.

Health science and social science are unique insofar as the average person has some of the tools (namely, observation) to develop theories of their own. When it comes to technology, we observe on a daily basis how it affects both our own behavior and that of the people around us.  On one hand, this is a great thing; everyone gets to feel like a scientist. On the other hand, when research does not neatly support one perspective over another, people can get a little – well — mad. Topics which are in no way resolved – for example, Is technology bad for you? –  just feel like the answers are obvious. “Of course we’re addicted to our phones!”

I would argue, and I think most SMAHRTies would agree, that debate and disagreement is part of what makes research fun. Even after the data is collected and the results are in, we don’t have an answer. All we have – all we ever have – is converging or diverging evidence. That, and a reason to do more research!

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.