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Researcher to speak on youth social media use, mental health in Hamilton

Ravalli Republic - 3/2/2024

Mar. 2—A University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatric research scientist will discuss her studies of the mental health effects of social media on youth during a community presentation at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19.

The presentation will take place in the Hamilton High School Performing Arts Center, 327 Fairgrounds Road.

The talk by Chelsea J. Olson, Ph.D., titled "What We Know about Social Media Use and Youth Mental Health," is part of a free outreach program sponsored by Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML). The hour-long presentation is intended for a general audience and will include a brief time for questions.

At UW-Madison, Dr. Olson is a member of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT), under Dr. Megan Moreno. As part of SMAHRT, Dr. Olson has assisted with several projects that have used a variety of research methods — such as survey questionnaires, content analyses and interviews — to investigate how adolescents and young adults use social media and how that use is associated with health behaviors. More specifically, she has investigated how positive experiences, for example seeking information about relationships, and negative experiences, for example cyberbullying and cyberstalking, occur on social media among adolescents and young adults and how those associations affect health behaviors and outcomes.

Along with discussing current research about the relationship between social media use and youth mental health, Dr. Olson said she plans to share some benefits and risks of social media use, and she will share some tips and resources for navigating social media and promoting good mental health in youth.

"I've always been fascinated with youth development and the changes and contexts that make the adolescent stage of life unique," she said. "For example, the development of peer relationships, including friendships and romantic relationships, was very interesting to me."

Dr. Olson said the evolution of social media has enhanced her interest in youth development because so much of youth social media involves interacting with peers. Adding a mental health component to the mix makes the research field even more intriguing for her.

"Mental health is essential to an individual's overall well-being, and it is essential that positive mental health begins early," she said. "These few interests of mine led me to research how both positive and negative experiences with peers on social media impact mental health and well-being."

Dr. Olson received her Ph.D. and master's degree in educational psychology (with a focus on human development) from UW-Madison. Along with her youth research, Dr. Olson has taught a broad range of educational psychology courses at UW and has studied cyber victimization among college students and adults.

RML began offering community mental health presentations in 2019 following the suicide of the son of one of its scientists, RML lead microscopist Beth Fischer explained.

"Dr. Kimmo Virtaneva and his wife, Monica, chose to use their son Mika's death to encourage people to talk about mental health, the latest research, and helpful resources," she said. "The series, Mental Illness Knowledge Awareness, or M.I.K.A., was created to raise awareness and destigmatize conversations on mental health related topics."

RML is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. NIAID conducts and supports research — at the National Institutes of Health, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website.


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