Teenagers today have to be master jugglers to meet all the expectations of parents, teachers, coaches and friends. Social media has increased these pressures by allowing them to be connected twenty-four seven. Add a chronic disease, such as diabetes, to the mix, and the complexity factor increases exponentially. We remember our youth, and the powerful desire to be left alone. Adolescence is a time when the urge to pull away from parental control is a major driver of behavior. Teens want to be in charge of their own lives and even if they cognitively accept the need for parental involvement around this issue, they frequently resent it. Because they have been connected to the web since childhood, however, they can be creative at adapting those same technologies to manage diabetes.
These local teens are finding creative ways to use their smartphones and laptops to help them track their numbers more effectively and to communicate in a non-stressful way with parents and teachers about how they are feeling.
Naturally Sweet Sisters
Reece and Olivia Ohmer, whose mom, Amy, blogs at NaturallySweetSisters.com, found a creative solution to simplify the need for repetitive texts from their mom about their blood sugar levels while they were at school. In a Youtube video, they describe how frustrating these constant reminders can be, especially when blood sugar is low, and they don’t feel like typing out a long explanation. Working with HealthDesignbyUs, a UM interdisciplinary group focused on patient centered design and spearheaded by pediatrician Dr. Joyce Lee, the girls designed a series of emojis that enable them to let their mom know they have been testing, what the results are and what they are doing about it. Students from the UM Stamps School of Art and Design created designs from the girls’ sketches and an app is currently in production for the Iphone and Android app stores.
Knowledge is Power
According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, “teens who used social networks, websites and pump/glucometer software for diabetes control were better at self-management.” Alex Faraj, who was diagnosed at age six, says, “once I began logging my blood sugar numbers on an app on my smart phone, it became far easier to recognize trends… and keep better control over my disease. I often spend time utilizing blogs and keeping up with the latest research, which has impacted my self-care and my overall well-being.”
Masters of their Universe
Parents know their diabetic teens need monitoring, that the consequences of not being on top of all the fluctuating numbers can be devastating. Adolescence is also a time when bodies are growing rapidly, hormones are fluctuating wildly, and stresses piling up, all of which can wreak havoc with blood sugar levels. Teenagers’ notorious sense of invincibility, combined with a powerful need to fit in and feel normal can make this process even more complicated. Enlisting their insight and ingenuity is an effective way to allow them ownership of this major part of their lives. Today’s teens are masters at using the technology to find creative solutions to their problems: from chronic disease management to the age old challenge of managing their parents.