The Youth Health Social Media Project

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

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

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

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

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.


Anti-Social Media: How the Connected World Cultivates Disconnection

Chidera is a junior from River Hill High School in Maryland. She contacted Dr. Moreno in August, asking the SMAHRTeam to guide her through the research process for a school project. She worked closely with Marina Jenkins and Dr. Moreno. Her project included data collection, a website and an article. We are very thankful to have had this opportunity to mentor Chidera. Below is Chidera’s article on the increasing amount of online communication in adolescents.



With whom do you spend more time: your phone or your family? Adolescents with consistent access to technology would have to put some thought into their answers. Studies show that overuse of technology prefaces the decrease of emotional intelligence and social skills, the increase of social anxiety and behavioral problems, and an eventual insecure attachment to technology. During adolescence, the emotional limbic system growth surpasses the logical and mature frontal cortex growth (Curtis, 2015). This neurological imbalance exacerbates the already overwhelming pressures of social and emotional development during adolescence. The adolescent brain is essentially a ball of clay, and any strong emotions, ideas, or experiences are deeply impressed upon the pliable structure.

As a result, the effects of increased technology use are heightened during adolescence. Technology-mediated communication allows a greater opportunity for individuals to internalize feelings that would otherwise be evident in a face-to-face conversation. This constant internalization can prove unhealthy and can significantly impact mental health and behavior (Suval, 2012). Additionally, in the case of technology addicts, the blurred line between physical and virtual reality can foster social anxiety. The researcher’s study aimed to find a correlation between increased technology use and emotional intelligece over a period of time.



Thirteen adolescents, ages 14-17, participated in the correlational study. To recruit participants, the researcher made presentations in different high school classrooms. During the presentations, each class was informed that the study would require completing of three surveys, downloading two apps, and would last one week. The researcher also disclosed that full names would not be used in the results to ensure the privacy of the students. A sign-up sheet was available after each presentation for students to sign-up if they chose to participate. Before the data collection began, the researcher gave the participants roughly five days to fill out the surveys and download the correct apps. When the week began, participants only had to keep a phone usage app running in the background, and log their mood at least once a day. At the end of the week, participants sent screenshots of the phone usage results and the mood chart to the researcher, then re-submitted two of the three surveys.


High school students spent an average of 5 hours and 1 minute on technology each day, and 60% of the participants depend on the technology available to them The positive and negative aspects of technology were shown through the responses: many people accomplish a lot because of technology and the future depends on it, yet they agree that it makes life more complicated and makes people waste too much time. Additionally, the integration of technology into the lives of students has had an impact; 50% of participants get anxious when they don’t have their phones.

The researcher cannot conclude that the aspects of social anxiety shown through the social anxiety survey are due to technology; they are likely recurring aspects of personality. The Life Satisfaction Survey responses were generally positive across family, friend, environmental, and interpersonal aspects, but the research predicts that the results would be more negative if any of the participants were diagnosed with technology addiction. This study was not comprehensive due to the limited time, limited volunteers, and plethora of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, so no causation can be assumed from the results. Since the experiment was done in a limited period of time, the trends analyzed are likely just recurring aspects of personality as opposed to personality traits developed due to technology.




The data collection does prove that technology is a crucial aspect in the lives of adolescents, considering that many depend on the technology available to them and suffer from anxiety when they are away from their phones. The researcher was surprised that more than half of the participants felt anxiety when they were away from their phones, especially since many of the participants were upperclassmen who understand that it is okay to step back from technology every once in a while. The researcher can observe the results from the Media Usage Scales as concrete when concluding attitudes towards technology, but the results from the Social Anxiety Scale and the Life Satisfaction Survey cannot explicitly be concluded as results of technology use because of many other environmental factors. In the future, some modifications to this study would be to obtain a larger sample size with a wider range of ages and backgrounds, so the results would be more representative of adolescents.


Works Cited

Curtis, A. C. (2015). Defining adolescence. Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, 7(2), 2.

Suval, L. (2012). Does Texting Hinder Social Skills?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 7,     2018.


SMAHRT Mentorship

Our team prides ourselves on completing credible research in the field of social media and adolescent health. However, we also jump at any chance to help students learn and apply the research process.


SMAHRT Scholars, Scholars Alumni Mentors, and SMAHRT Staff having fun taking a group photo!

Summer 2018 will be the fourth year of our Summer Research Scholars program. This program was created to give students the opportunity to gain hands on research experience in high school. Now that our team has moved to Madison, Wisconsin, Summer Research Scholars will take place for the first time in the midwest. The program was initially founded in 2015 in Seattle, Washington. SMAHRT works hard to run a beneficial program for all of those involved. Students in the Madison area are only eligible to apply, which makes the program impactful in a specific area. Early at the beginning of

the school year an opportunity arose to spread the underlying idea of Summer Research Scholars across the country.


In August 2017, our P.I., Dr. Megan Moreno, was approached by two students from Maryland and D.C. These high school students were conducting a project for one of their classes and needed an expert in the field. Luckily, they both chose us.


Marina Jenkins
Aubrey Gower

Two of our SMHARTies, Aubrey Gower and Marina Jenkins, stepped up to become mentors to these students. Their role was to review, edit and offer suggestions throughout the project. The first step that the mentors took was to set up a time to get to know each student and answer any questions that they had. The projects were different for each student, but the overall goal was to help students to properly apply the research process.


We wanted this mentorship to be beneficial to both parties. When asked what they wanted the students to get out of this experience, both Marina and Aubrey expressed that they wanted the students to properly apply what they had learned about the research process.


“It was interesting to see how people learn the research process and adapt it to different students”, said Aubrey. She noted that her own student was different than the others she had worked with in that their initial research question was broad. Other students typically started with a very narrow research question. Aubrey found it very valuable to be able to witness her student narrow down their research question and connect their ideas in their paper.


Mentors were also able to learn valuable skills. “It is important that I can explain in detail the research process”, said Marina. She found this experience to be influential to her own career. Regarding the entire experience, Marina felt that, “It is good for students to get advice from a researcher point of view because there are necessary ways of conducting these processes in an actual research career”..


We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to mentor these students on how to apply the research process. Our mentors, Aubrey and Marina, benefited from their experience and we hope that the students were able to end the school year with at least a little knowledge of the research process.


In June, one of the students will be posting their project on our Features page. You should come back to check it out!


Why should I gain experience in research?

Experience conducting research is beneficial to any career path. When people think about research teams they typically picture those with some kind of science or psychology background. I know I believed that prior to working with SMAHRT. However, I have learned that primary research should be encouraged in every field.

I am a strategic communications major at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Before my junior year, I was aware that UW-Madison is a leading research university, but I never got to fully interact with the research process. My first semester as SMAHRT’s Communications Intern, has taught me so many valuable lessons, one of them being how to properly conduct research.

Through my experience, I believe that every student should have some experience conducting primary research. To further explain why you should gain experience in research, I will walk through my experience at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS).

Step 1: Identify research topic

As soon as the research process began, it was apparent that my initial thought, that mostly science or psychology majors conduct research, was wrong. There are in fact researchers from about every background you could think of, but what connects them all to research is that they have a topic area they are passionate about.

This past year I became interested in bridging the gap between the public and science. From classes and personal experience, it was evident that some people distrust science. They get frustrated when they can’t fully understand the publications published by researchers that are intended to help the general public. This interest lead me to my URS project idea that looked at whether or not Instagram could be used to promote a research team.  I hypothesized that promoting research teams on social media would make them more transparent and trustworthy in the public eye.

Step 2: Literature review

The literature review felt like the natural next step for me. Most of my classes throughout my college career have taught me the importance of secondary research. This is looking to already published sources for background information on your topic. For my URS project, I looked for literature that had to deal with Instagram. I wanted to know what practices businesses were using to promote their brand. I also wanted to get a grasp on the best times and content to post on Instagram.

Step 3: Clarify the research question

After compiling my findings from the literature review, I finally pulled together my research question. Does the use of a business’ social media promotion increase engagement on a research team’s Instagram?

Step 4: Begin data collection

My research question provided me with a rough path that guided me throughout the rest of my project. This next step, data collection, was something that I did not have prior experience in. In the School of Journalism, we always talked about primary research, but never had time to conduct it. URS and SMAHRT provided me with a valuable learning experience. From my research question, I knew I wanted to measure engagement on Instagram and I felt that the best way to do that was through documenting the number of likes on each post. The posts that I decided to measure were the ones were I was implementing some of the business social media promotional techniques that I discovered in my literature review.

Step 5: Analyze and interpret data

The data collection process took about a month and a half. I felt more comfortable as I went along, creating posts and documenting the likes. However, when I got to this step, I felt very overwhelmed and out of my element. Kole Binger, fellow SMAHRTie, and the rest of the team really helped me to take my findings and interpret them in the most useful way. The entire team was so encouraging and always made me feel like I was capable conducting research even though I was the Communications Intern.

Step 6: Share findings


I took my findings to the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Going into that day, I was extremely nervous that I was going to feel out of place. However, when I stood next to my poster, other students and faculty were coming up and asking genuine questions. I really enjoyed working on my project because it was something I was passionate about and I learned many valuable skills throughout the process. These skills will be beneficial later in my career.

Through my experience conducting research, I have seen how valuable primary research can be to society, but also as a learning tool. This is why I feel that every undergraduate or even high school student should gain experience conducting primary research.

Features, Staff Spotlights

Staff Spotlight: Kole Binger

Kole Binger
Kole Binger

When SMAHRT made the move back to Madison in August 2017 they welcomed a new member to their team. Kole Binger was hired in November 2017 and has been working here at SMAHRT for four months now. Although, she was not part of the original team from Seattle, Kole has become a valuable member of the team.

Kole graduated in May 2017 from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a biology degree. She had research experience during her undergraduate years here in Madison, but her experiences were all over the board. At the end of her senior year, only six months before working for SMAHRT, Kole was working in a transplant lab where they looked at antibody mediated rejection models in regards to the immune system.

For SMAHRT, Kole is an associate research specialist. She is involved in two of the current studies that SMAHRT is working on. R34, the first study, is looking at potential alcohol intervention methods on Facebook. Kole is now identifying participants through Facebook and evaluating if their use of the platform would benefit from an alcohol intervention. Kole is also working on the Marijuana Public Health Study. This study is looking at marijuana advertisements in states where it is legal. More specifically, they are looking at those advertisements in regards to adolescents and how they might interact with these ads on social

In Kole’s time here at SMAHRT she has learned several valuable lessons. When it comes to research, Kole has discovered that it is not a linear process, but an iterative one. “A lot of times when you take a break and come back to your work you see it in an entirely different light”, Kole said. She has also learned how important communication skills are in regards to research. At times, research can involve complicated jargon or ideas and it is easy to misunderstand one another.

When it comes to Kole’s research interests, she has similar interests to SMAHRT’s. She is interested in adolescents and their use of social media because it has become such a central aspect of society. Kole has more of an interest in younger kids and how social media effects their development and social identity.  At SMAHRT, staff and interns are given the opportunity for an independent project. Kole’s research looks at how college students post about alcohol during college football game days.

In the upcoming months, Kole is excited to continue her work on SMAHRT’s current studies. She will also be presenting her independent project research at the Pediatric Academic Society Conference in May 2018.

SMAHRT also has their Summer Research Scholars in July 2018 and Kole is looking forward to connecting with adolescents in the Madison area.

Kole PAS

Kole’s goal is to have her work not only influence and benefit my patients, but also benefit the scientific community. “I want to be like Megan when I grow up”, Kole explained.



Steps of the Research Process

Step 1: Identify Research Topic

Identify research topic

The first step in the research process is to identify which topic you would like to research. One way to jump start this process is by thinking through what interests you. There are so many research topics out there, so find one that really resonates with you.

Step 2: Review the Literature


Step 2 is where you conduct your preliminary research. Before you dive right in to your own research you want to figure out what has already been done on your topic of choice.

Step 3: Develop and Clarify Research Question

develop research question

This step is a more narrow version of Step One. Once you have your topic and a good idea of what others have done, you can refine your research question to try and find an answer that no one else has come across.

Step 4: Develop Data Collection Plan


Once you have a clear idea of your research question, you should start planning out how to get to an answer. Data collection will provide you with the information to eventually come to a conclusion. You need to have a solid idea of what data you need.

Step 5: Collect Data

collect data

Step Five is where you will gather all of your data. In this step, you are not able to come to a conclusion just yet, but you might be able to identify trends with the naked eye.

Step 6: Analyze and Interpret Data

analyze data

This step is where you are able to determine and formulate an answer to your research question, but interpreting all of the data you collected in Step Five.

Step 7: Share Findings


Step Seven is by far the most rewarding step. This is where you get to present your findings to the rest of the world, making an impact on society.