University of Malta
 

Volume 10, Issue 1, April 2018
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Special issue: Using Technology to Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing in Children and Young People

Guest Editor: Prof Barbara A. Spears

 

Editorial [PDF] 


1) The Importance of Social Connection for Cybervictims: How Connectedness and Technology Could Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing on Young Children

Larisa McLoughlin, Barbara Spears and Carmel Taddeo                                                 pp 5 - 24

A substantial amount of research has documented the negative impact technology has on young people's lives: particularly cyberbullying and the negative mental health outcomes associated with it. Research examining how technology could promote mental health and wellbeing in young people however, needs further investigation. This paper reports on a mixed methods study, which involved quantitative online surveys (N=229), and face to face interviews (N=30), across eight South Australian high schools. This paper will only address the quantitative results. The study involved young people aged 12 to 17 years. This paper discusses the importance of social connectedness and the use of technology to promote social connectedness among young people. A key finding was that young people who were more socially connected, were more likely to cope actively in response to frequent cyber victimisation. They were more likely to seek help and have positive mental health as a consequence. Findings from this study could aid policy development, social media campaigns, and the education of health professionals, teachers, and parents about the benefits of technology and the importance of staying connected. 

 

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2) Help-seeking Online by Young People: Does the Influence of Other Matter?

Alexander Stretton, Barbara A. Spears, Carmel Taddeo and Judy Drennan                       pp 25 - 46

Help-seeking is an adaptive process whereby a person seeks external support for a problem. Help-seeking early in response to mental health concerns is thus important in preventing mental illness in later life. Recent developments in service provision such as online help services, have been identified as promoting helpseeking behaviours, but there are many barriers that work against a young person seeking effective help early on, including personal characteristics such as attitudes toward help sources. Further, the influence of others on a young person’s help-seeking behaviours is beginning to emerge in the youth help-seeking literature, and may be an important facilitator of help-seeking behaviours. The present mixed- method study explored young people’s attitudes toward help sources, and how receptive young people are to the influence of others on their help-seeking intentions. Critically, the study aims to determine whether these variables have varying effects on different types of help sources (formal, informal and online). It was found that the influence of others and attitudes toward help sources had little bearing on online help-seeking intentions, in contrast to help-seeking intentions from traditional modes of help-seeking. Recommendations are made as to how young people can be better informed about the benefits of online help-seeking, with the hopes of highlighting the potentially untapped resource of other people’s influence on a young person’s decision to seek help online.

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3) The Use of Technology in the promotion of Children's Emotional Intelligence: The Multimedia Program "Developing Emotional Intelligence"

Antonella D'Amico                                                                                                                    pp 47 -67

Developing Emotional Intelligence” is an Italian language multimedia tool created for children between 8 and 12 years of age. The software is based on the four ‘branches’ of model of emotional intelligence proposed by Mayer and Salovey and aims to evaluate and improve abilities in perception of emotions; using emotion to facilitate thought; understanding emotions; and managing emotions. In the software, four characters represent the four branches of emotional intelligence and guide children through the ‘world of emotions’ using drawings, animations, music, sounds and verbal instructions. The software is comprised of two components, namely an assessment section (27 items) and a training section (46 exercises). Both the assessment and the training sections aim to measure and improve children’s abilities in perceiving emotions (faces, drawings and music); using emotions (emotional synaesthesia and facilitation); understanding emotions (blend and transformation of emotions); and managing emotions (personal and interpersonal situations). Two studies involving primary and secondary school children respectively, demonstrated the efficacy of the training performed with the software in improving performance in emotional tasks and academic achievement in the linguistic-literary area. A comparison between the two studies offers interesting insights about the best ways to integrate technology in social and emotional learning programs. 

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4) Media Literacy and Social Emotional learning for the Net Generation

Marianna Kosic                                                                                                                       pp 68 - 88

The paper explores the opportunities and challenges of combining media literacy and social-emotional literacy to promote mental health and wellbeing in school curricula. It describes the implementation of an experimental module within the program Crescere Insieme What's Up (Growing up together What's Up). This upstream prevention and health promotion program, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (north-eastern Italy) is designed to harness the protective effects of developing and strengthening life skills to move beyond risk factors to prevent youth suicide, fostering connections and support between school and mental health institutions, peers and adults. The program activities involved role plays and reflection activities, collaborating in project group work, consulting and producing media (such as articles, Youtube videos and Powerpoint presentations) for peer-to-peer education. It adopted an experiential approach enabling active engagement of high school students, their parents and teachers, and 'learning by doing' with agency and responsibility. Qualitative feedback from students and teachers, study limitations and further implications are discussed.

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 5) Cognitive Emotions in E-Learning Processes and their Potential Relationship with Students' Academic Adjustment

Francesca D'Errico, Marinella Paciello, Bernardina De Carolis, Alessandro Vattanid, Giuseppe Palestra, Giuseppe Anzivino                pp 89 - 111

In times of growing importance and emphasis on improving academic outcomes for young people, their academic selves/lives are increasingly becoming more central to their understanding of their own wellbeing. How they experience and perceive their academic successes or failures, can influence their perceived self-efficacy and eventual academic achievement. To this end, ‘cognitive emotions’, elicited to acquire or develop new skills/knowledge, can play a crucial role as they indicate the state or the “flow” of a student’s emotions, when facing challenging tasks. Within innovative teaching models, measuring the affective components of learning have been mainly based on self-reports and scales which have neglected the real-time detection of emotions, through for example, recording or measuring facial expressions. The aim of the present study is to test the reliability of an ad hoc software trained to detect and classify cognitive emotions from facial expressions across two different environments, namely a video-lecture and a chat with teacher, and to explore cognitive emotions in relation to academic e-self-efficacy and academic adjustment. To pursue these goals, we used video-recordings of ten psychology students from an online university engaging in online learning tasks, and employed software to automatically detect eleven cognitive emotions. Preliminary results support and extend prior studies, illustrating how exploring cognitive emotions in real time can inform the development and success of academic e-learning interventions aimed at monitoring and promoting students’ wellbeing. 

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Other Papers 

 

6) A clustered randomized controlled trial for the prevention of alcohol misuse among Maltese teenagers

Pamela Portelli                                                                                                           pp 112 - 132

This study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief Alcohol Expectancy Challenge, with the aim of reducing the prevalence of alcohol consumption amongst Maltese teenagers.119 students were randomly allocated to a control or a 3-hour expectancy challenge session. Alcohol consumption and alcohol expectancies were investigated via a self-report questionnaire delivered at baseline, immediately after the intervention and at 4 months follow-up. Despite significant differences in alcohol expectancy scores at the post-intervention, no significant reductions in alcohol consumption were observed in the experimental group. On the other hand, a significant increase in alcohol consumption was observed in the control group at postintervention. This study failed to support the effectiveness of alcohol expectancy challenge (AEC) to curb alcohol misuse, but it is still possible that AEC may help prevent the increase of alcohol consumption. Possibly, the teaching of alcohol refusal skills and educational efforts to help dispel prevalent misconceptions related to alcohol expectancies amongst both parents and students can yield more effective long-term outcomes. Targeting school children from an earlier age might also be needed since alcohol expectancies are often formed in childhood.

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7) Discussion Paper 1: Inclusive Education: Beyond Popular Discourses   

John P. Portelli and Patricia Koneeny                                                                       pp 133 - 144

The popular discourse of democratic education is home to numerous myths surrounding our conceptions of what inclusion means in today’s schools. Certain beliefs like the idea that offering equal opportunities for participation to all students regardless of individual need, which conflates equality and equity, or that democracy in classrooms involves nothing more than limitless inclusion are upheld as go-to solutions for the inevitable dilemmas for educators committed to inclusion. This paper argues that philosophical clarification of the concept of inclusion is urgently required by teachers, policy makers, and theorists of education committed to both democracy in education and democratic education. Our most urgent concern is related to the inherent attitude toward deficit implied by different understandings of inclusion. This is not necessarily due to the unclarities and ambiguities associated with the concept itself, but rather reflect the calculated and anticipatory way educators tend to approach classroom practice. We argue that with careful philosophical clarification, along with an entirely new stance on the part of teachers regarding their pedagogical practice and a reconceptualized notion of student ‘needs’, the concept of inclusion can continue to remain not only useful but essential to creating a robust democratic community in the classroom.

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8) Discussion Paper 2: Beyond the 'diminished self': Challenging an array of objections to emotional well-being in education

Paul Downes                                                                                                                pp 145 - 163

With early school leaving prevention being an agreed European Union headline target of 10% across the EU by 2020, emotional-relational dimensions to education are gaining renewed attention in European education policy. Against this backdrop, prominent criticisms of an emotional well-being agenda in education by Ecclestone (2004, 2007) and Ecclestone & Hayes (2009) require further consideration. The key objective of this paper is to challenge and reconstruct six key arguments of Ecclestone and Hayes against emotional wellbeing in education. There is a need to move beyond paradigms of conceptual coherence that rest upon diametric oppositions – thought/feeling, healthy/sick, diminished/undiminished, optimism/pessimism, subject/negation of a subject, learning/therapy. It is argued that an emotional well-being agenda in education is a conceptually coherent one, once different levels of prevention and intervention are distinguished and the argument goes beyond flat, undifferentiated conceptions of ‘therapeutic culture’. The Cartesian model supported by Ecclestone and Hayes to frame a ‘diminished’ self is but one selfhood. A more nuanced debate would focus on the strengths and weaknesses of different, pluralistic conceptions of selfhood. Their most substantive objections to an emotional well-being agenda in education concern deficit labelling and privacy and are important cautionary notes.

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9) Short Research Report: Academic optimism and organizational citizenship behaviour amongst secondary school teachers

Abdollah Makvandia, Farah Naderia, Behnam Makvandia, Reza Pashaa and Parvin Ehteshamzadeha           pp 164 - 166


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Last Updated: 16 November 2018

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