American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions

American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions

June 24, 2018
3 min read

Teens and tech: Diabetes information generally not shared on social media

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Despite their connectedness online, teens generally appear to be less inclined to share information about diabetes on social media, according to a speaker here.

“When we’re thinking about asking teens to share with us, potentially as providers or when we’re working with parents of teens, we need to think about the kind of information that they’re willing to share,” Korey K. Hood, PhD, professor of pediatrics (endocrinology) and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Lucille Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University, said during a presentation. “It shouldn't just be a completely open book, what they share.”

Hood discussed a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2017, which included a sample of teens and young adults at a primary care clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. Approximately half of the participants had posted about their health on social media within the previous 6 months. Three-quarters posted about their moods, while a smaller number (42%) pertained to acute medical conditions. Sharing of health information was more common among patients with self-reported poor health. Few teens and young adults used social media to connect with their health care providers; rather, these younger patients preferred texting. The researchers concluded that “adolescents and young adults maintain their privacy on social media regarding their health.”

In another study, for which Hood was an investigator, social networking accounted for only 27% of teens’ online connection activities.

“Teens are well-connected, but it’s a small number of them who use social media to share health information. ... We’re seeing this theme that text messaging and some of these other activities besides sharing on social media might be a better way of getting to these teens” and young adults with social media, Hood said.

In the same study, Hood and colleagues found that teens are willing to share information about the “how” of their diabetes regimens, but are less willing to share details of how often they perform self-management tasks. Moreover, in this study, teens were reluctant to share information about diabetes measurements.

“They’re willing to share about how they carry supplies and count carbs, but when you get into things like glucose values and HbA1c, they are less likely to share that kind of information,” he said.

While teens generally tend to have positive attitudes about technology in general, attitudes about diabetes technologies are less favorable, according to Hood. He discussed a potential device readiness solution for teens and adults, which matches the characteristics of a person with type 1 diabetes with the device and technology to which they would be best suited.

Among the profiles Hood outlined are the following:

  • The “diabetes eraser” — These patients overcome barriers, have relatively positive attitudes toward technology, and relatively high device uptake and low diabetes distress. For this group, the goal is simply to maintain the efforts they are making.
  • The “wary wearer” — These patients endorse a high number of barriers, have average attitudes toward technology, have low device uptake and have high diabetes distress. For these patients, Hood advocates providing education, problem-solving and support.
  • The “data minimalist” — These patients use continuous glucose monitoring very infrequently, and while they have relatively average tech attitudes they do not use diabetes devices. These patients require “regular problem solving or technology problem solving,” Hood said.
  • The “free rangers” — These patients endorse few barriers, have negative technology attitudes, and have above-average diabetes and hypoglycemia distress. These patients may benefit from simulated situations, as well as general education, Hood said.

“Barriers are common, but it’s important to think about this concept of device readiness,” he said. – by Jennifer Byrne


Hood KK. Tech and Teens: To Share or Not Share, Do Teens Care? Presented at: American Diabetes Association 78th Scientific Sessions; June 22-26, 2018; Orlando, Fla.

Hausmann JS, et al. J Adolesc Health. 2017;doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.12.025.

Disclosure: Hood reports financial ties with Dexcom, Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute and Lilly Innovation Center.