On the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2022, we publish a new research report that maps adolescents' use of mHealth applications. A total of 2484 Czech children aged 11-16 participated in this research organized within the FUTURE project. The authors of this research report are Adéla Lokajová and Prof. David Šmahel.
The lack of physical activity in children and adolescents is a global problem. The World Health Organization recommends that children and adolescents perform moderate to heavy exercise at least an hour a day, on average (WHO, 2020). However, activities that motivate adolescents to move, such as sports clubs or physical education classes, were severely limited during the pandemic. Therefore, it is useful to focus on other factors that may support adolescent physical activity. One of them can be modern technologies, a natural tool for adolescents. This research report aims to map how often and in which ways Czech adolescents use technologies to support their health.
The most widespread technologies of this type are the so-called mHealth applications, which can be installed on smartphones or smartwatches. These applications generally focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both in prevention (e.g., monitoring steps or physical activity) and intervention (e.g., applications aimed at patients with a specific diagnosis). They monitor the user’s sports performance (e.g., the application Strava), weight, heart rate, sleep, quality sleep, the regularity of physical activities, and the fulfillment of set goals. These values can be entered manually or measured directly using GPS or a smartwatch. mHealth applications can also serve as a source for instructions (e.g., video tutorials with specific exercises), reminders to the user of their goals, and provide positive or negative feedback in terms of their fulfillment. Moreover, they can make recommendations about exercise or calorie intake, or provide comparisons with peers (Smahel et al., 2018).
The effect of mHealth applications on users’ physical condition is evident from many studies. In particular, studies show that mHealth app use is associated with increased physical activity (Lee et al., 2019), which has a secondary impact on factors, such as weight and health. Their potential lies mainly in maintaining the habits of people who have already started a physical activity, rather than in the ability of applications to initiate this change (Ng et al., 2020). In other words, mHealth apps can serve as an excellent tool, but they are seldom the primary motors of change. However, it is the long-term routine that is crucial for physical activities and, at the same time, difficult to follow (Shin et al., 2019)
In this report, we explore the use of mHealth applications by Czech adolescents aged 11-16. We asked whether and how often they use the applications, for what purpose, and what specific features they use in these apps.