PhD student Joanna Yau has been awarded a 2018 Public Impact Fellowship. Public Impact Fellowships are awarded to doctoral and MFA candidates who are conducting research that is determined to have critical public impact. Ms. Yau is researching "Teens, Texting, and Wellbeing."
In addition to researching social media and wellbeing, Ms. Yau studies child and adolescent development and technology and literacy. She is advised by Associate Professor Stephanie Reich.
Ninety-five percent of adolescents in the United States use smartphones. As teens from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds are rapidly adopting mobile devices, research on how technology affects teens’ wellbeing is greatly needed. For my dissertation, I was interested in whether texting, which provides immediate access to friends and family, can help teens cope with stress. I used software that unobtrusively logged when and for how long adolescents used texting apps and ecological momentary assessment, in which teens reported their stress level hourly for seven days. I found that adolescents who text frequently tended to use texting apps more when they were stressed. To determine whether texting actually improved wellbeing in stressful situations, I conducted an experiment where adolescents came into the lab with a friend and completed stress tasks. They were then randomly assigned to text their friend, watch a video, or do nothing. Mood and stress were measured through self-report and fitness trackers that captured heart rate variability. Preliminary results indicate that adolescents who texted their friends reported higher moods than adolescents who did not do anything. With texting, teens could have a great resource for mental health in their back pockets. As parents, policy makers, educators, health care professionals, we can better support youth by shifting the conversation from how much screen time to how teens spend their screen time.