On Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28, Interactive Media Institute attended the California Psychological Association’s 2018 Convention in La Jolla, California. Professionals throughout California gathered at this event to address the central theme—Innovations and Opportunities for Practice—with a featured track on Psychology in the Digital Age. This convention highlighted the expanding reach of technology in our lives and provided the opportunity to learn about the impact of technology on patients and to bring innovative technological applications into psychological practice.

The Friday Plenary Session featured, Dr. Jean Twenge, a social psychologist from San Diego State University. Dr. Twenge’s presentation, titled “Smartphones and Mental Health: Impacts on Teens and Adults”, addressed the negative effects of smart phones, social media, and overall screen time on adolescents’ and adults’ well-being. In particular, Twenge advocated the use of smartphones in teens and adolescents has decreased independence and slowed development. Comparing generations of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and the iGen, she presented data highlighting increasing rates of isolation and behavioral disorders among our youth and their relationship with social media use and time spent on phones, tablets, computers, etc.

Though understanding and mitigating the negative effects of social media is tantamount, social media use has also been found to promote well-being and sense of connectedness across generations. For example, an article recently published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that moderate use of social media platforms like Facebook promotes feelings of social inclusion and engagement in autistic teens and adults. While there is no doubt social media use has largely contributed to increasing rates of behavioral disorders amongst teens, there is still research to be done on how it can be used to promote well-being.

On Saturday, the conference explored technological applications in psychological practice. The plenary session featured Dr. Ricardo Munoz of Palo Alto University and his research on using ubiquitous technology, like the internet and smartphones, to increase access to mental health treatments in underserved populations. Munoz offered his take on four types of therapy—face-to-face, face-to face augmented with technology, guided self-help, and fully automated self-help services. Focusing on the latter two types, he discussed the importance of expanding psychological practice beyond the confines of brick and mortar offices and delivering services to people in need from the convenience of their homes. Recognizing the importance of face-to-face therapy, Munoz stressed the conditional use and supplemental application of technologies in psychological practice.

These discussions on the impacts of technology in our lives are essential as society navigates a digital revolution. While there are undoubted dangers and potentials for misuse, our world can truly benefit from increased research and discussion on applications of technology that enhance quality of our lives.

 

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