The Impact of Technology on Childhood and Adolescence

On Friday, November 17, Dr. Brenda K Wiederhold gave the invited keynote address at the Cyberbullying, Psychological Well-Being of Teenagers and New Media Conference in Milan, Italy.  The conference was attended by parents, researchers, clinicians and heads of the Fondazione Varenna, Municipal Council of Milan and Lombardy Region General Welfare Directorate.   The presentation focused on both the positive and the negative impact that Virtual Reality and Social Networking are having on today’s children and adolescents.  We must work together to embrace the positive and develop strategies to correct the negative.



In her November 2017 editorial for CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking Journal, she addresses the digital anxieties shaping our next generation’s mental health.




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2012 Summer Editorial

Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation

Summer 2012, Volume 5, Issue 2



Welcome to the Summer 2012 issue of the Journal of CyberTher- apy & Rehabilitation (JCR). As you know, JCR is one of the two official journals of the International Association of CyberPsychology, Training & Rehabilitation (iACToR). Now in its 17th year, the annual international CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy Conference (CYBER 17) is the official conference of iACToR. The CyberPsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking Journal (CYBER), CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation (C&R) Magazine, and JCR, form to create our Combined Communications Platform. The journals, conference, magazine, and association combine into one powerful platform to address previous information deficits in the utilization of advanced technologies in healthcare which strives to speak with a united voice to inform and educate stakeholders about the uses of technologies in healthcare, as well as how tech- nologies are impacting behavior and society.

This year the Interactive Media Institute, in collaboration with the Virtual Reality Medical Institute, is organizing the International Association of CyberPsychology, Training, & Rehabilitation’s (iACToR) 17th Annual CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy Con- ference (CYBER17), scheduled for September 25-28, 2012 at the European Parlimanet in Brussels.

The Annual CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy Conference began as a symposium that featured presentations dealing mostly with conceptual matters and future possibilities at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality Conference. CYBER17 has now grown to a full- scale conference with presentations that demonstrate controlled clinical trials with unique applications of cutting edge technologies that improve the access and increase the quality of healthcare.

CYBER17’s focus areas include:
1. The Impact of Technologies as Tools
CYBER17 will continue its examination of the exciting applications of advanced technologies being used in training, therapy, rehabilitation, and education for the improvement of the quality and availability of healthcare for people around the globe.

2. The Influence of New Technologies
CYBER17 will further its investigation into how new technologies are influencing behavior and society through the use of positive technology, healthy ageing and well-being.

3. The Imprint of Social Networking
CYBER17 will embrace, as it did in 2011, the exploration of social networking tools on individual behavior and societal relations.

4. The Introduction of New Technologies and New Terms
CYBER17 will study the psychological aspects of new areas in- fluenced by technology such as cyberfashion, cyberadvertising and cyberstalking.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who are helping to make this year’s conference possible through their tireless energy and drive this year’s Scientific Chairs, Professors Rosa Marie Baños, Willem-Paul Brinkman and Giuseppe Riva; Exhibit Chairs Professors Evangelos Bekiaris and Luciano Gamberini; Workshop Chair Professor Stéphane Bouchard; Cyberarium Chairs Professors Mariano Alcañiz and Andrea Gaggioli; and Website Chair Professor Sun Kim. Many thanks to the Scientific Committee, made up of prominent researchers from around the world, as well as all of the presenters and attendees. Finally, my gratitude to James Cullen, Emily Butcher, Tanisha Croad and Pierre Schifflers for overseeing the Conference Coordination, to Chelsie Boyd for editing related materials, and to the teams at Interactive Media Institute, Virtual Reality Medical Center, and Virtual Realty Medical Institute for their time and contributions to all facets of the conference.

To our sponsors and supporters, who continue to support our vi- sion and help make it a reality, a warm and heartfelt thank you – Brussels Capital Region, Engineering Systems Technologies GmbH & Co. KG, the European Commission, Hanyang Univer- sity, International Association of CyberPsychology, Training, & Rehabilitation (iACToR), Interactive Media Institute (IMI), INTERSTRESS, ISfTeH, Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), the Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), the Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) and Visit Brussels. As integral parts of our Combined Communications Platform, the CyberPsychology & CyberTher- apy Conference Conference series will continue to work together with iACToR, JCR, and C&R to inform and educate industry, ac- ademia, and government officials and the general public on the explosive growth of advanced technologies for therapy, training, education, prevention and rehabilitation.

As in previous conferences, this year’s conference will be hosting an interactive exhibit area, the Cyberarium, which allows conference attendees and members of the press to try new technologies firsthand. To recognize outstanding achievements by students and new researchers, as well as lifetime achievement for a senior researcher, we will also be hosting awards during the conference and announcing the 2012-2013 iACToR officers during the General Assembly. Pre-conference workshops will focus on advanced topics including Brain Computer Interfaces, VR for cognitive assessment and rehabilitation and finally VR treatment manuals for clinical applications.
As we approach CYBER17 with excitement, we begin too to look toward next year’s conference, CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy 18, to be held in June 2013. Thank you again for your commitment to the evolution of healthcare!



Brenda K. Wiederhold, Ph.D., MBA, BCIA

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation

Virtual Reality Medical Institute

Build Trust, Engage People to Increase Understanding of Science

From the 1960s through the mid-1980s, the term ‘‘scien- tific literacy,’’ focused on public knowledge of science, came into vogue. From 1985 to the mid-1990s, the term ‘‘public understanding of science (PUS),’’ focused on public attitudes toward science, became the new paradigm. Both are so-called ‘‘deficit models,’’ in which researchers assume that the public is deficient in knowledge, attitude, or trust. From 1995 to the present, the focus has shifted to the deficits of the scientists in communicating with the public, with public en- gagement the perceived way to rebuild public trust and achieve a social consensus on controversial scientific issues.1 Education is only a part of the solution, as a recent meta- analysis across cultures showed a small positive correlation between knowledge and attitudes.2

The deficit model overlooks the roles of ideology and social identity, as well as the roles of science fiction and entertain- ment on certain topics such as cloning. The public engagement model of the last decade features, for example, consensus conferences in which stakeholders participate in evaluation and decision making.3 However, such engagement may have unintended consequences, such as the formation of a watch- dog advocacy group to monitor nanotechnology in the com- munity.4 A recent analysis of such upstream engagement showed that, with the exception of the UK Nanojury and Nanodialogues, most projects studied by the authors did not go beyond consensus formation or measuring public opinion. However, if people cannot translate participatory approaches into a political process, there could be a backlash, such as that created in Europe against genetically modified food.5

Moreover, the deficit model ignores how people use media to learn about science. In the absence of strong motivation to acquire knowledge, they will use mental shortcuts, person- ally held values, and feelings as a basis for their beliefs about a scientific issue. In addition, people are drawn to new sources of knowledge that reinforce their current beliefs. Certainly, opinion leaders have a talent for providing great ‘‘sound bites’’ that may oversimplify or contradict scientific evidence, such as promising that food biotech will put an end to world hunger.3

There is a need for truthful sound bites, however, as people need to hear about science in ways that make the results personally relevant and meaningful. As scientists, we must learn to focus on framing our messages to connect with di- verse audiences. If we do not, other groups surely will, as the framing of the food biotech issue in Europe as a Pandora’s box of unknown risks helped stall progress on such research in some countries.6

In a new book on science communication, social scientist Matthew Nisbet at American University in Washington, DC, writes:
A generalizable set of factors, principles, and social meanings appear over and over again across science debates. These generalizable features reveal important clues about the inter- section between media frames and audience dispositions, the role of journalistic routines in altering the definition of an is- sue, and how science policy decisions are made. However, in order to put theory and principles into or- ganizations should work with communication researchers to commission surveys, focus groups, and other analyses that can identify effective messages and media platforms. Drawing on the typology of frames presented, on any particular issue, re- search needs to pinpoint the mental associations and cognitive schema that make a complex science topic accessible and personally meaningful for a targeted audience along with the particular framework devices that instantly translate these intended meanings.7

As we identify media platforms for our science messages, we must remember that social networking sites are changing the way that people get their science information. For ex- ample, members of an online community of experts can tweet a critique of a linked article from a peer-reviewed journal to their followers, bloggers may notice and comment on the controversy, and a new online op-ed piece may be created that provides additional context to the reader of the original article. Companies are beginning to take advantage of the social media properties of the Internet via Web sites that link to their Facebook pages and YouTube channels, and feature blogs and discussion groups. Patient advocacy group and special interest group Web sites are intended to frame policy debates or news coverage, and some science blogs blend science with religion.

As clinicians and scientists, we must be vigilant not to feed into the cycle of hype. We must withstand commercial pres- sure, temper our own hopes for a technology in our reporting, and under-promise results to pave the road to public trust and engagement.


1. Bauer MW, Allum N, Miller S. What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expan- ding the agenda. Public Understanding of Science 2007; 16: 79–95.
2. Allum N, Sturgis P, Tabourazi D, Brunton-Smith I. Science knowledge and attitudes across cultures: A meta-analysis. Public Understanding of Science 2008; 17:35–54.

3. Bubela T, Nisbet MC, Borchelt R, Brunger F, Critchley C, Einsiedel E, Geller G, Gupta A, Hampel J, Hyde-Lay R, Jandciu WE, Jones SA, Kolopack P, Lane S, Lougheed T, Nerlick B, Ogbogu U, O’Riordan K, Ouellette C, Spear M, Strauss S, Thavaratnam T, Willemse L, Caulfield T. Science communication reconsidered. Nature 2009; 27:514–18.
4. Powell M, Kleinman DL. Building citizen participation in nanotechnology decision-making: The democratic virtues of the consensus Conference model. Public Understanding of Science 2008; 17:329–48.
5. Kurath M, Gisler P. Informing, involving or engaging? Science communication, in the ages of atom-, bio- and
nanotechnology. Public Understanding of Science 2009;
18:559–73. 6. Nisbet MC, Scheufele DA. The future of public engagement.
The Scientist 2007; 21:38. www.the article/
print/53611/ (accessed September 6, 2011). 7. Nisbet MC. (2010) Framing science: A new paradigm in
public engagement. In Kahlor L, Stout PA, eds. Communicating science: New agenda in communication. New York: Routledge, ch. 2, pp. 40–67.


Brenda K. Wiederhold


Should Adult Sexting Be Considered for the DSM?

In the wake of the news about the unfortunate events that led to the resignation of Anthony Weiner, aged 46, from the U.S. House of Representatives, we ask: Should adult sexting be considered a deviant behavior worthy of inclusion in the DSM?

Former Rep. Weiner’s fall from grace began when he ac- cidentally posted a link to a lewd photo of himself on a Twitter account that he used to communicate with constituents. He subsequently admitted that he had been sexting both photographs and messages to various women before and during his marriage.

Sexting can be defined as ‘‘sending, receiving, or for- warding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images via cell phone, computer, or other digital devices.’’1 To date, much of the research has focused on adolescents and young adults, the age group most involved in this activity.

An online survey of undergraduate students found that nearly two-thirds had sexted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, mostly to their boyfriend or girlfriend. About a quarter sexted someone they wanted to hook up with or date, and 15% sexted people they had met online only.2 While being sexy or initiating sex were the primary motivations of this group, an earlier pencil-and-paper survey by this same author found that self-expression was a primary motivation.3

Some authors place sexting in the category of cyberbullying,4 which it certainly can be when used by adolescents to harass other teens. But what about adults? Do we know anything about why adults use sexting and if it is associated with other high-risk sexual behaviors?

To date, research to answer this question is limited. One study of young, mostly Hispanic older adolescents and young adults aged 16–25 found that 20% used sexting. The women who used it were slightly more likely to enjoy sex and slightly more likely to exhibit histrionic behavior.5

Perhaps it is just that some politicians lack the internal controls, such as conscience, or the external controls, such as police, to guard against what may be perceived as deviant behavior. Sexting among consenting adults is not a crime, and some adults would not consider sexting with a person other than a spouse ‘‘cheating’’ in a marriage. Others, however, might think that such behavior is a sign of a sex addict. Is it deviant behavior? Is it any different from watching porn movies, with or without your partner?

Mr. Weiner’s lapse of judgment brought to light that, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, cyber privacy cannot be guaranteed. Moreover, as clinical and research professionals, we need to be mindful that other issues may contribute to the reasons why some of our adult clients may engage in sexting.

We believe there is a need for more research on adult sexting. What drives people who are married or in a committed relationship to text sexual messages and photos to someone other than their spouse? Does this behavior vary by gender and age? We need to understand the etiology of and treatment options appropriate for such behaviors.

In the relatively new field of cyberpsychology, we strive to learn about the many challenges of current behavior that social networking makes possible. Certainly, such research will help us to prepare for the many behavioral changes that advances in interactive technology will inspire.


1. O’Keefe GS, Clarke-Pearson K, Council on Communication and Media. The impact of social media on children, adoles- cents, and families. Pediatrics 2011; 127:800–804.
2. Henderson L. Sexting and sexual relationships among teens and young adults. McNair Scholars Research Journal 2011; 7:31–39. vol7/iss1/9 (accessed June 26, 2011).
3. Henderson L. Sexting: Self-expression or sexual attention. Boise State University, 2010 Undergraduate Conference, College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. Poster presentation. http:// (accessed June 26, 2011).
4. Newey KA, Magson N. A critical review of the current cyber bullying research: Definitional, theoretical and methodologi- cal issues. Where do we go from here? Conference Proceed- ings, Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) International Education Research Conference, Mel- bourne, Nov 28–Dec 2, 2010. 2521NeweyMagson.pdf (accessed June 26, 2011).
5. Ferguson CJ. Sexting behaviors among young Hispanic women: Incidence and association with other high-risk sexual behaviors. The Psychiatric quarterly 2010 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21153441.


Brenda K. Wiederhold


CyberPsychology Behavior & Social Networking

Who Gets Funding? Let the People Decide

In The Department of Mad Scientists,1 Michael Belfiore offers a glimpse into the workings of the maverick Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is re- sponsible for the birth of the Internet and GPS, among other amazing inventions. The small percentage of Americans who know about DARPA may have heard about it because it funds the Grand Challenge Race, with a $2 million prize for the first autonomous robot that makes it through a desert course, avoiding obstacles and following the rules.

‘‘One enormous continuing development is the exponen- tial growth of social networking media and the increasing use of social media by companies to crowdsource ideas, mount contests to award prizes and gather audiences, and attempt to create dialogues with customers,’’ wrote Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her syndicated column toward the end of 2010.2 The following examples illustrate how these new types of contests can work, and provide food for thought about new possi- bilities for research and development funding.

In 2010, Google awarded a total of $10 million to five finalists in its Project 10^100 contest, which solicited ideas for changing the world by helping as many people as possible. From 150,000 ideas submitted by people in 170 countries, Google selected 16 big ideas and let people vote for their favorites.

The Pepsi Refresh Project is looking for great ideas that are going to ‘‘refresh the world.’’ As with traditional grant funding, there are specific grant cycles, applications, and ca- tegories for projects costing from $5,000 to $50,000. What is new is that the project director gets to promote his/her pro- ject through videos and social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the projects that garner the most votes win. Pepsi awards up to $1.2 million each month for such projects.

A 2011 contest sponsored by Enterprise Rent a Car was called Giving Back. It allowed visitors to its Facebook page to decide among 10 competing charities nominated by En- terprise employees. The first-place winner received $10,000, the second-place winner received $5,000, and the third- and fourth-place winners received $2,500 each. The contest gave Enterprise Rent a Car an opportunity to promote its foun- dation, which gives 75% of its funds to employee-suggested charities.

Talking about the Dockers ‘‘Wear the Pants’’ contest, in which entrants submitted a 400-word business plan and awards were made on the basis of votes from both commu- nity members and a panel of judges, one author3 offers tips for businesses wishing to engage in social media contests:

  •  The best prizes positively affect people’s lives, creating a positive association for the company.
  •  If everyone gets something (e.g., a coupon) for partici- pating, it helps everyone feel included.
  •  Associating with a good cause generates emotional ap- peal and a reason to spread the word.
  •  Running a contest through Facebook keeps visitors there longer, interacting with the company and each other.
  • A ‘‘soft sell’’ approach that mixes branding, sales, and
    contest strategy is appropriate for social media.
  • Identifying how the contest fits into the marketing strategy, devoting sufficient resources, and defining what a successful outcome looks like are essential to thecontest’s success.

CYBER readers may be interested in the results of a recent study,4 which identified seven key components to informa- tion communication and technology (ICT) competitions:

1. Challenge goal—what sponsors hope to achieve (e.g., prompt innovative thinking);
2. Marketing—howandtowhomsponsorsspreadtheword (e.g., conferences, Web site, social networking sites);
3. Application process—how entries are submitted (most are publicly available);
4. Judging criteria—what is used to evaluate applicants (e.g., originality, economic viability);
5. Judging process—the particular mix that determines winners (e.g., external experts, crowdsourcing, presen- tations);
6. Winners—recent winners and their topics (e.g., mobile apps);
7. Supplemental support—what additional support is of- fered to winners (e.g., coaching for pitching ideas to investors).

The authors of this study concluded, ‘‘In general, contests are increasingly being used as a tool to solve society’s most entrenched problems.’’

This leads us to suggest that more government agencies follow DARPA’s lead. Why shouldn’t governments hold con- tests that let the people decide which projects are funded? This could start small, with perhaps one percent of government re- search and development funding allocated to such contests. In these days of American Idol voting and social media-based contests, we suggest that U.S. and European government agencies consider the benefits of letting the people decide.

1. Belfiore M. (2009) The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs. Washington, DC: Smithsonian.
2. Kanter RM. A promising year for technology and innovation. Harvard Business Review 2010; T19:20:43Z.

3. Cotriss D. Social Campaign Shows the Power of Contests. Small Business Trends, April 21, 2011. 2011/04/social-campaign-shows-the-power-of-contests.html (accessed May 10, 2011).
4. Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors. (2009) Media, in- formation and communication contests: an analysis. Presented to John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. www.knightfoundation .org/dotAsset/356025.pdf (accessed May 10, 2011).


Brenda K. Wiederhold