Increased Social Media use Linked to Developing Depression
PSYCHOLOGY 308, DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
HOT TOPIC ESSAY ASSIGNMENT
This assignment will have you reading a “hot off the press” scientific study and a corresponding media account of the study. Your goal will be to (1) characterize and critique the research study, (2) link the study to material you’ve read for this class or aspects of lectures, and (3) critically evaluate the corresponding media piece’s presentation of the research using material from this class. The goal is for you to gain some additional skill reading original scientific studies that are of relevance to human development and, also, to appreciate how media does or does not accurately present the study to the general public.
To complete this assignment, please follow these steps:
1. Choose one of the following topics to be the focus of your Hot Topic essay:
a) Self-controlled children tend to be healthier middle-aged adults
b) Increased social media use linked to developing depression
c) Kindergarten readiness and lifelong development
d) COVID-related stress in pregnancy and impact on child development
2. Read the original research article on which the topic is based
In your paper, you will be asked to describe this scientific study on multiple fronts: theory being tested, central hypotheses, core research methods (study design, data collection tools), central results, and key implications of the study for human psychological development. In your description, we will also ask you to be critical of the study’s strengths and weaknesses, and ask you to draw on material that you’ve learned about in class to support your critique. Also, it will be very important that this description and critique be in your own words and not a simple regurgitation of the abstract. Approximate length of this part of the assignment: 1½ pages.
3. Read the corresponding media article associated with this topic/study
The media piece attached to this original research will have attempted to disseminate the central importance of the study. Your job will be to critique how well the media article did or did not represent the study. You will evaluate how well the media piece describes the study and characterizes the study’s main findings. You will also evaluate the media piece’s biases, if there are any. Some of the following questions might help to guide your critique:
- What did the journalist get right?
- What did the journalist get wrong, and why?
- What might the journalist have said differently?
- If the journalist made any causal claims, were they accurate? (Apply the 3 causal criteria).
- Did the journalist focus on the same key finding as the scientists did?
- Did the journalist accurately describe the procedures of the study? Did the journalist leave details out?
- In what way was the piece biased?
- Like above, we will want you to draw on course material to support your critique of the media article’s presentation of the study. Approximate length of this part of the assignment: 1½ pages.
4. Complete a 1-page outline (by Sunday, 11/21) and the final, 4-page essay (by Tuesday, 12/7)
Your Hot Topic essay will be graded on four elements:
- Accuracy & quality of study characterization: Points here will be determined by how well you describe this scientific study in terms of: theory being tested, central hypotheses, core research methods (study design, participants, data collection tools), central results, and key implications of the study for human psychological development.
- Critical critique of the corresponding media article: Note that points will NOT be deducted for your opinion of the media article, just in how clearly you articulate your critique. Points here will be determined by how well you critique the media article’s representation of the study, specifically, your evaluation of how well the media piece describes the study and presents the study’s main findings. Additionally, you will also want evaluate the media piece’s biases, if there are any.
- Use of course material: Points will be awarded for how well you incorporate course material (from readings, lectures) in your critiques of both the original study and corresponding media article. Our goal here is to have you draw on material that you’ve learned about in this class to support your critique of both the study and media article.
- Clarity, organization and quality of writing: Your paper will be graded for its clarity and organization as well as the quality of writing.
Increased Social Media use Linked to Developing Depression
The Science Daily article highlights the findings of Primack et al.’s (2020) article without being overly technical. Although the article fails to accurately differentiate temporal associations from earlier correlations between depression and social media use, it does mention the time element. The article’s use of scientist interviews improves its authenticity and creates a better platform for understanding the article’s scientific basis and main discussion points. The University of Arkansas and Science Daily associations of the media article improved the article’s representation of scientific material with minimal error.
The article tested temporal and directional associations between depression and social media use. The article sampled various teenagers and young adults in a representative sample of the United States’ census-reported population. The 1,289 members of the study population were sampled to represent racial, sexual, and other demographic features of the American population (Primack et al., 2020). It uses a validated 9-point Patient Health Questionnaire to assess depression at baseline and at six months. The study found a three-time likelihood among heavy social media users to develop depression than low-volume social media users (Primack et al., 2020). It identifies temporal and directional association with heavy social media use preceding depression. However, the inverse relationship did not hold true over the 6-month period. The results indicate a temporal association, demonstrating a high chance of proving causality with additional research (Primack et al., 2020). The data is generalizable because of the various corrections applied for coverage and follow-up and selection bias.
The article’s title incorrectly represents the article as providing a link between depression and social media use instead of a temporal association. The journalist correctly identified the importance of time in evaluating the relationship, although it represented this importance inaccurately (University of Arkansas, 2020). The article also identifies the lack of previous research linking the two variables on a temporal level. The article interviews the scientific article authors, and this improves its technical mastery of the topic. The article selects key soundbites from various authors to strengthen the article and maximize its impact on the reader in a shorter period of time. The article’s statistical figures are lifted directly from the article and accurately represent the scope of influence between social media use and depression development. Its conclusion relates the article’s findings to greater global conditions, such as identifying depression as the leading cause of disability (University of Arkansas, 2020). Overall, the article adequately communicates the scientific article’s point and its importance.
The two articles provide the same content in varying formats, demonstrating the media article’s proficiency at conveying scientific content to its readers. This indicates that the media article was produced by the University of Arkansas and published on Science Daily, which is a science-related online magazine. The combined use of interviews and statistics from the journal article enriched the media article and made it resemble a layman’s summary. This was a successful attempt at conveying scientific material in simplified terms, although it is inaccurate at identifying some elements, such as temporal association. Media articles can be best served by adopting interviews to enhance the accuracy of the claims made in the article, as scientific concepts may sometimes be confusing to non-scientific writers and editors.
Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Escobar-Viera, C. G., & Fine, M. J. (2021). Temporal associations between social media use and depression. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 60(2), 179-188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.09.014
University of Arkansas. (2020, December 10). Increased social media use linked to developing depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201210074722.htm
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