From the toddler gripping the colorful screen of a tablet, to the teen locked in their room attached to a computer, to the adult with their eyes glued to a phone during social interactions; we are aware of the pervasiveness of technology around us. Although technology addiction is not presently in the diagnosis guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) scholars has recognized there may be a link between general technology use and unhealthy use related to physical, social, and psychological problems.
Addicted to Technology?
The availability and popularity of tech devices makes one ponder if technology can be considered addictive. Historically, we’ve always thought of addiction to substances like drugs or alcohol. In the 1980’s, however, new concerns about addictions to behaviors like gambling began to emerge. Mark D. Griffiths, M.D. has done extensive research on the topic of technology addiction. He has studied topics from behavioral psychology to video game addiction. Griffith’s assertion of technology addiction is that it is a behavioral addiction that arises from the human-machine interaction. Therefore, binge-watching your favorite TV shows, checking email, scrolling social media, and constant use of your cell phone could all pave the way to a potential problem.
Problems Caused by Tech Addiction
- Sedentary Lifestyle – More time in front of the screen means less time moving and doing. With an increase in the ability to access technology, the risk of getting less physical activity increases.
- Social Development – More time spent with online interactions and less face-to-face conversations can hinder social development. It can also cause social isolation and withdrawal from social situations.
- Sleep Deprivation – Tech devices like your phone or computer might hurt your sleep cycle. Recent studies have found that the light spectrum from such devices stimulates our brain and makes it harder to fall asleep. Also, content viewed on devices can make it hard to relax or rest if they are stimulating.
- Psychological Concerns – Excessive technology use has been linked to several harmful psychological outcomes. Concerns such as low self-confidence, anxiety, depression, lower emotional stability, and low life satisfaction have all been reported in such cases.
- Injury, Illness, and Death – It might seem extreme, but tech addiction has been linked to all three of these outcomes. Use of a device can hinder your ability to pay attention while driving or walking, causing accidents. There have been several stories of tragic deaths linked to people taking selfies in dangerous areas, ultimately causing their death. As for illness, devices may have more germs than a toilet seat.
Problems for Children
Recently the World Health Organization recommended that no child under 2-years-old be exposed to screen time. Children under 2 should only spend an hour at most on any gadget. A survey of 500,o00 teens done in 2017 found an increasing amount reported depression due to increased use of phones and tablets. Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, founder of Children and Screens says, “There’s cognitive effects [with screen time], including retention in learning, memory, impulsivity, and possible academic performance.”
Dr. Gayani DeSilva, a child and adolescent psychiatrist agrees with the link between excessive technology use and development problems in children. “Brains of children grow rapidly and in response to their experiences and environment,” says DiSilva. “Their brains also cannot differentiate between reality and make-believe. Therefore, children’s brains react to blue screens and develop systems in response to their experiences as though whatever they do with their phone or tablet was reality.”
Some researchers have asserted that the technology is not the primary concern in addiction, but it reveals underlying preexisting psychological problems. While this might be true, research around excessive technology use has consistently shown a problematic connection exists.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, help is available. Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help with advice on next steps. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.
Internet Addiction Quiz
LifeHack: 7 Warning Signs You’re Addicted to Technology