Technology – you can’t live with it; you can’t live without it. Well, you really can’t live without it. As much of an importance it has in our family, professional, academic, and personal lives, sometimes it can be too much. And by too much, this means that some people can develop an addiction to it.
According to the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation, technology addiction is seen as "frequent and obsessive technology-related behavior increasingly practiced despite negative consequences to the user of the technology." This includes excessive use of the internet, excessive video game play, overuse of smartphones, and overuse of social media. This is not just for stereotypical images of young adults constantly looking at their phones; it also extends to older generations' habits of television viewing, video game play, and being on their phones, too. If it is excessive and negatively impacts one's life, it's an addiction.
Those who excessively use technology may also face other psychiatric issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. While it is inconclusive if one causes the other, there is definitely a correlation.
Some adverse effects of technology:
Brain Health: Internet addiction alters the volume of the brain. The brain changes are similar to those produced by alcohol and cocaine addiction. Internet addiction can actually shrink the brain's gray and white matter fibers which results in changes to emotional processing and brain functioning.
Physical Health: Physical symptoms can occur, such as backache, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and vision problems from staring at the screen.
Unhealthy Habits: The more time people spend on screens, the less time they are spending exercising and being active. This can result in increased consumption of unhealthy food, depression, and obesity.
Financial Issues: It can also lead to bankruptcy or financial issues, especially if the time spent online is focused on shopping, gambling, and gaming.
Lack of Privacy: People share most of their personal information on the Internet or other social media sites. Often this is way too much information that too many people, including strangers and cybercriminals, can access.
Poor Sleep Habits: Limitless use of digital devices can cause us to be up late at night. Being on our phones last thing before, and first thing after, sleeping can alter sleep cycles. This habit can cause a lot of health problems.
Addiction: We are not only dependent on technology – we are often addicted to it. Many studies have shown that when smartphones are taken away, people still heard or felt vibrations that weren’t there. Some people become nervous and restless, and can experience withdrawal, loss of control, mood imbalance, conflicts with others, financial difficulties, or occupational issues.
You may have seen some of traits with people you know (or within yourself) without realizing that it could be related to a lot of time on technology devices.
Do not fret though, there are many positive effects of technology, too!
Communication: Technology plays a vital role in all kinds of communication. Devices such as mobile phones, computers, laptops, and tablets keep us connected to others all over the world. Especially with this year’s pandemic, text messaging, audio calling, and video calling have helped people stay and feel connected during isolation.
Trade and Industry: Business communication has boosted our accounting & information systems, management systems, point of sale systems, to name a few. Technology has helped businesses become much more advanced and efficient.
Education: Several studies have shown that students who have better access to technology have better chances of learning and doing well at school. The internet is invaluable when it comes to research and supplemental studies for students of all levels, putting innumerable learning resources literally at the tips of their fingers.
Medical Treatments: The invention of new machines, surgical instruments, medicines, and access to medical care are significant contributions of technology to the medical world. Hospitals and medical practices are more organized and more efficient in saving people’s lives because of the latest technology that makes for better treatment.
Research & Invention: Invention involves the discovery of new processes, ideas, or tools. Technology is successfully aiding in the discovery of new and previously unknown concepts which lead to great advances.
Health & Wellness: Health apps to track chronic illnesses and communicate vital information to doctors have made healthcare much easier for patients. You can also use technology to track diet, exercise, and mental health information. Technology has created online medical records, virtual doctor visits, and ease of communication with health care providers.
What we can do to help technology become a positive factor in our lives:
- Choose outdoor activities over technology.
- Limit social media use by using timers or helpful apps.
- Monitor your screen time. Google's Digital Wellbeing tools and Apple's Screen Time functions allow us to set daily limits on app use, reduce notifications, and monitor how much we use an app.
- Parental controls also allow us to control the use of our children’s gadgets and even limit access to content that may be harmful or addictive.
- Set Aside Reading Time. Encourage actual books, not electronic ones.
- Create Projects for Yourself. Find hobbies that do not involve technology.
- There have been proposals to do away with how many "likes" we see on our social media posts. Discuss why this supposed “positive reinforcement” (mostly from strangers or acquaintances) just isn’t and shouldn’t be important to kids.
- Teach responsibility and conscious behavior. Talk to your child about privacy in cyberspace and potential risks and dangers. Simulate cases and discuss how to face the challenges online. Explain possible consequences of inappropriate behavior and device misuse.
- Keep up with tech industry spin. Take interest in current digital trends that are popular among youth. This will help you to recognize and deal with the issues before they become negative factors.
- Organize a family time with no electronic devices. Be an example and remember it’s never too late to bring positive changes in your kid’s (or your own) life to avoid negative effects of technology.
Many technology products are designed to encourage repeat use, with smartphone notifications, social ranking leaderboards, and alerts. It is important to be mindful of how the use of technology impacts your life and those of others around you.