An Assessment of Digital Media-related Admissions in Psychiatrically Hospitalized Adolescents

Children and Screens

No previous studies examined the role of digital media in precipitating adolescent inpatient psychiatric admissions. This study tested the hypothesis that adolescent with digital-media related admissions would endorse higher rates of both digital media use and problematic online behaviors. The research team relied on a cross-sectional data (from patient self-reports and from clinicians’ admission notes) to clarify admissions as related to digital media. On that basis, of 218 participants (62% female, and mean age 15.7 years), 31.2% had admissions related to digital media use. Cyberbullying was the most frequent digital-media related cause for admission (28.6%). Compared to adolescents with non-media related admissions, teens in this study were significantly more likely to endorse being cyberbullied, engaged in sexting, and using social media sites. (Neither Internet overuse generally, nor increased use of other relational online activities (such as gaming), were significantly elevated among the population studied.) These data suggest that online relationship conflict may be a factor in many adolescent psychiatric admissions, and that identifying and addressing these types of conflicts might help avert such admissions.