Published Report Details
Mandatory Fields
Clarke, AM; Kuosmanen, T; Chambers, D; Barry, MM
Bridging the Digital Disconnect for Parents: Exploring Parents’ Views on Using Technology to Promote Young People’s Mental Health.
NUI Galway & Melbourne, Australia
HPRC & Inspire Ireland & Young and Well CRC
Optional Fields
Bridging the Digital Disconnect is a three-year program of research that aims to develop online mental health and digital literacy resources for adults – including parents, teachers, youth workers, social workers, general practitioners and mental health professionals – who wish to support the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25. This program of research is being carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland Galway and Inspire Ireland Foundation in collaboration with Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, Australia. The first online resource to be developed is designed to meet the needs of parents. This report will outline key findings from a needs assessment carried out with parents in Ireland. The specific aims of this study were to: 􏰪  determineparents’currentuseofonlinetechnologies; 􏰪  examineparents’needsinrelationtoyouthmentalhealth; 􏰪  explore parents’ views regarding the use of online technologies to assist them in supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing; and 􏰪  exploreparents’needsinrelationtousingonlinetechnologiestosupportyoungpeople’smentalhealth. A total of 355 parents of second and fifth year students (young people aged between 14 and 17) from randomly selected secondary schools across Ireland completed a postal questionnaire. In addition to this, four focus groups were carried out with 32 parents nationally in order to further explore their views. Overall, the results from this study reveal important findings regarding parents’ needs in terms of youth mental health and the use of online technologies to assist them in supporting young people. In relation to mental health, parents endorsed the association between positive youth mental health and the development of coping skills, confidence, communications skills and supportive peer and adult relations. Parents frequently referred to the pressures (academic, peer, societal) young people currently experience and the impact this has on their mental health. Over two thirds of parents (69.8%) stated they were likely / very likely to look for help on the internet if their child was going through a tough time. Parents with second or third level education, females and younger parents (>45 years) were significantly more likely to use online supports. Receiving mental health information through a website was the second most frequently requested information source after a leaflet. In addition, 22.1% of parents stated they had used the internet to search for mental health information in the past month. These findings, coupled with the finding that one quarter of parents (24.6%) disagreed / strongly disagreed that they could help their child through a tough time points to A) the need for mental health resources and training for parents, and B) the potential of developing an online youth mental health resource to meet parents’ needs. Regarding the types of online resources parents requested, there was a strongly expressed need for youth mental health information, specifically: 􏰪  informationaboutlocalservicesavailabletosupportyoungpeople; 􏰪  reliableinformationprovidedonmentalhealthissuesconcerningyoungpeople; 􏰪  guidelinesaboutwhattodoifayoungpersonisexperiencingmentalhealthproblems; 􏰪  guidelines about how to promote wellbeing in young people and develop their communication skills, self- efficacy and coping skills; and 􏰪  resourcestosupportparents’ownmentalhealth,inparticular,stressmanagementskills. Parents who took part in the parent focus groups reviewed an Irish youth mental health website ( and expressed a desire for the development of a website with similar content for parents. In addition to youth mental health information, parents repeatedly spoke about the need for training in relation to young people’s use of technology, specifically the use of social networking sites. Information around online safety was frequently requested. Analysis of the parents’ findings according to level of education revealed that parents with a second or third level education were significantly more likely to A) indicate a need for youth mental health resources, and B) view the role of technology as important in providing these resources. 1 Potential barriers that would prevent parents from using online resources included: lack of confidentiality; over- complicated style; uncertainty about the reliability and source of information provided; lack of IT skills; and lack of awareness of the online resource. Parents referred to the need for a transparent, joined-up approach for parents, teachers, youth workers, general practitioners, health and mental health professionals. Over 80% of parents felt that the online resource should also cater for adults working with young people and young people themselves, thus indicating their preference for an all-inclusive online resource that addresses multiple needs. Related to this, parents requested the variety of online resources already available be brought together in a coherent manner to assist parents in their awareness and use of reliable online information and resources. In addition to receiving information through an online resource, parents also emphasised the need for face-to-face training in relation to youth mental health, developing parents skills and enhancing parents’ use of technologies. Overall, the results from this study highlight the positive response from parents regarding the development of online parent resources to support youth mental health. In interpreting the findings, the limitations of this study should be taken into account, including the non-representative sample who participated in the study and the low response rate (16.7%) to the parent survey. The majority of participants that took part in this needs assessment study were female, aged 44 to 55, had completed third level education, and were in employment. Despite these limitations, the findings underscore parents’ need for guidance in relation to youth mental health and the potential of online technologies in providing support to parents. 
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