Today a guest post about last week’s Connect 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia, by American researcher and sexual health educator Kris Gowen. The 2-day conference hosted by the Young & Well Cooperative Research Center brought together young people, researchers, practitioners and policymakers representing the YAWCRC’s 75+ partners in the academic, commercial, nonprofit and government sectors of Australian society.
Guest post by Kris Gowen
I was one of two Americans fortunate enough to attend Connect 2014 in Melbourne, February 20-21. The goal of the conference was to share the latest research on how technology can be used to improve the mental health of young people, often referred to at the conference as “eMental Health.” The positive framing of the intersection of youth and technology was at the forefront and drove the agenda. The fact that, out of the some 400 participants, 130 were youth strengthened the overall belief of participants that there are many ways that technology can improve – not threaten – youth well-being. Here are some key takeaways from the amazing two days: Read more
Judging by the just-released documentary Web Junkie, about a Chinese “Internet addiction” treatment center, it’s loneliness that’s at the heart of what the Chinese officially call a clinical disorder (more often called “problematic Internet use” in the West).
If you can get past the boot-camp-like conditions and young patients’ (inmates’?) tears, you’ll get to a scene – at 4:50 into the 7-min. trailer – that’s just as dramatic but in a different way. The psychiatrist who runs the treatment center, Prof. Tao Ran, who is also a military officer, is talking to patients’ parents, who are encouraged to stay at the center and participate in their children’s treatment.
“One of the biggest issues among these kids is loneliness,” he tells the parents. “Did you know they feel lonely? So where do they look for companions? The Internet. They know the Internet inside and out, but nothing about human beings.” I was struck by this statement. The treatment explicitly refers to “Internet addiction,” but what it appears to be addressing – based on the patients’ interviews, the footage from World of Warcraft and video of kids playing multiplayer online games in Chinese Internet cafes – is much more specific: so-called gaming addiction. So much of the experience of multiplayer games is interactive and collaborative. It could well be seen as an antidote for loneliness. In saying that these young gamers know “nothing about human beings,” perhaps the professor is saying they know “nothing about human beings” in offline life and relationships because there’s some sort of deficit there. Read more