Background: Adolescents are digital natives, with the majority now owning their own smartphones and having internet access. Although the internet and smartphone applications (apps) can provide mental health support, little is known about how young adolescents use digital technology for mental health purposes. There are many digital health resources available for young people, but the assumption that they will be open to use them has been largely untested.
Aims: We aimed to explore how adolescents with and without raised symptoms of anxiety, depression and problematic eating use the internet on smartphones/tablets and mental health apps.
Method: The Bristol Online Survey tool was used to deliver an online survey to 775 girls aged 11-16 years, attending a state-funded secondary school in the south-west of England. The survey was completed in class during the winter term of 2017.
Results: A total of 98.7 and 97.4% used the internet and apps, respectively, although only 6% had used any mental health apps. Of those with raised mental health symptoms, 15-17% used or were using a mental health app, with 48.5% reporting that they would not use a mental health app.
Conclusions: Young female adolescents are avid users of the internet and apps but are not using digital technology for mental health purposes. Addressing concerns about digital technology are necessary to maximise the effect it can have on child and adolescent mental health.
Declaration of interest: None.