On Wednesday July 10, at the headquarters of Proa Comunicación, the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation held the press conference for its 14th Scientific Conference, which will be held on October 24 and 25 of this year at the Auditorio Castellana 33 de la Mutua Madrileña. María Concepción Guisasola, doctor of Medicine and scientific coordinator of the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation, and José Leoncio Areal, patron-secretary of the Foundation, announced the content of the presentations and round tables, which are dedicated to, in this edition, the Impact of Social Networks and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in child and adolescent mental health. The press conference was attended by media groups including Antena 3, Ondacero, Servimedia, ABC, Colpisa, EFE and Europapress, among others.
In this year’s edition, as a new feature, the 1st Prize for Research Alicia Koplowitz will be awarded, endowed with 3,000 euros, and will distinguish the best scientific research work published in 2018 by young research(less than 40 years old) members of the Association of Scientists in Mental Health of Children and Adolescents – Fundación Alicia Koplowitz.
During his speech, Dr. Guisasola explained that based on researchers’ publications, the use of the Internet, “and especially social networks,” favors the practice of violations or abuses, including interfering with social networks sites’ accounts, creating false profiles to provoke threats and even invitations to suicide. Therefore, the Organizing Committee of the 14th Scientific Conference opted to address the impact of social networks and ICTs in child and adolescent mental health, “seeking to respond to the concerns of parents regarding the mental health of their children, given that the use and abuse of new technologies and virtual reality generates many questions” to parents.
The scientific coordinator of the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation also justified the theme of the Conference by discussing how addictions related to technology have been growing exponentially since 1995, when the term ‘Internet Addiction’ was deemed, recognized by the WHO as a health condition disease in the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
Faced with this situation, he noted that experts believe that “there is growing scientific evidence that suggests that excessive use of social networks or online interaction can lead to symptoms traditionally associated with addictions or substance abuse.” Among these symptoms, he cited the loss of control capacity, mood modification, tolerance, abstinence and relapse, which all fall within the components of the aforementioned Internet Addiction.
On the other hand, María Concepción Guisasola reviewed other ailments that recent research has associated with the excessive use of social networks, such as FOMO (fear of missing out, fear of losing something), “a generalized fear that others may be having grafiying or fun experiences from which one is absent,” or Nomofobia,”intense fear of being without a mobile phone,” and, “of course,” cyberbullying, which he described as a “social problem, in addition to a public health problem” The latter, he explained, is even more serious than common harassment, since it is carried out under the shield of “anonymity”.
Despite everything, the Organizing Committee of the Scientific Days wanted to stand up in favor of technological advances and its influence on children. In this sense, Guisasola pointed out that “social networks and new technologies have brought great advances and benefits to the mental health of children and adolescents, especially from the point of view of early detection, diagnosis and treatment.” As an example of this, he highlighted the work of the DetectaWeb Project, a detection protocol directed and developed by Spanish psychiatrists and psychologists in colaboration with Dutch colleagues. It is able to detect prematurely and prevent future emotional disorders, which saves costs and offers more agility in the evaluation and analysis of results.
With regard to treatments, he listed ICT’s advantages as the ability to reach those who need it with reasonable costs or the facility to implement interventions designed to address different psychological disorders. Some benefits whose potential is greater in the case of children and adolescents because they are “digital natives.” As examples, he listed the effectiveness of Virtual Reality applications, as demonstrated for almost two decades, as an intervention tool in the field of Clinical Psychology and Health, or the use of serious games to promote health in various fields. However, he stressed that ICT-based applications designed to improve interventions with children or adolescents have not yet achieved the same expansion as in the case of adults, so he predicted that “they will experience a remarkable development in the near future.”
The Alicia Koplowitz Foundation, through its different types of scholarships, has financed training in prestigious international centers of almost two hundred doctors and psychologists in specialtizing in practices related to minors’ mental health.