Resnick receives grant for social media and health behavior study

Paul Resnick

Professor of Information Paul Resnick received a $271,993 grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate how social media activities in adolescence could affect health behaviors, including substance use and dependence.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder and titled, “Social Media, Online Measures, and Substance Use Development in Adolescent Twins," will monitor social media use and exposure for 400 adolescent twins for a full year. With many adolescents using multiple social media platforms, this study could provide insight into how social media exposure relates to other behavioral and environmental risk factors, how this relationship evolves during adolescence, and the causes of individual differences in this relationship.

Researchers will link aspects of social media behavior in the twins to other behavioral factors like substance use and dependence and will evaluate the extent to which social media, GPS and online monitoring can provide accurate assessments of these behavioral issues and the environmental risk factors that lead to them.

Resnick's contribution to this study will utilize his MTogether software to monitor online behavior specific to this proposal. MTogether is a platform developed by Resnick and UMSI associate professor Eytan Adar with a grant from Google that allows researchers to study individual usage across social computing sites. The software will post questionnaire items on participants' computers and mobile devices. 

The application used in this study will integrate in-person clinical, cognitive, and environmental assessment, online surveys, geospatial position logging, and monitoring of online and social media behavior. Resnick and his team will look for associations between substance use and social media indicators like duration of use and posting, reading or searching for drug-related content.

U-M School of Public Health faculty members Dr. Goncalo Abecasis (Center for Statistical Genetics) and Dr. Scott Vrieze (Biostatistics) are also investigators on this project. They and Dr. Resnick are responsible for integrating the School of Public Health's Genes for Good and MTogether platforms. Dr. Abecasis will also consult on study design, analysis, interpretation of results and publication.

Posted December 11, 2014