By: Ufuk Yagci
The Treat: Internet connectivity & mobile devices
With the evolution of Internet and advances in technology, communication has become very easy and fast. A survey conducted in Great Britain in 2014 demonstrates the positive impact of technology on relationships. With the use of Internet and mobile devices, families and friends can stay in contact much easier than the past. Moreover, technology has made a significant impact on people’s lives with the ease of accessibility of information.
The Threat: Technology addiction!
Unfortunately, the treats that technology offers us have some drawbacks as they lead many people spending too much time in front of the screens and making technology the center of their lives. Some people find themselves trapped in technology addiction.
What is an addiction? An addiction is a compulsive need, craving of your body and a chronic dysfunction of the brain system for the use of a habit-forming substance or behavior. Someone experiencing an addiction will be unable to stay away from the addictive behavior and will display a lack of self-control. Addictions get worse over time interfering with your daily life and leading to further complications such as withdrawals and permanent health complications.
Technology addiction consists of addictive behavior to video gaming, online shopping, excessive use of social media, excessive texting or overuse of technological devices. Internet Addiction is the more common term that is used for technology addiction and is defined as any online-related compulsive behavior that interferes with people’s lives and causes stress on their environment and relations. According to the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine, one in eight Americans suffers from problematic Internet use and the rates are even higher in many Asian countries.
Is technology addiction a disorder?
Internet addiction is a psychological disorder that has been recently proposed for inclusion in the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. DSM-V actually includes Internet addiction as a disorder that needs further study and research. An even more significant addiction than Internet addiction is the Internet Gaming Disorder. This has been defined as a “Condition for further studying by the DSM-V”. It is not an official disorder and APA requires additional research to decide to call it an official disorder. This may be because there is not enough evidence and data to determine if Internet addiction is a separate disorder or if it has another cause. Some experts call the Internet addiction as “Impulse Control Disorder”.
While mental health professionals are not still in agreement whether this should be classified as an actual disorder, research shows that internet addiction can significantly affect the behavioral development, as well as the mental and physical health. There is no doubt that many people are displaying addiction signals when it comes to the Internet, social media, use of smartphones and digital devices.
What are the symptoms of technology addiction?
In 1998, “Internet Addiction Test” (IAT) was created by Dr. Kimberly Young, who is a professor at St. Bonaventure University. The IAT measures the severity of self-reported compulsive use of Internet for adults and the term Internet refers to all types of online activity. The scale and the test have been translated into several languages including Chinese, French, Italian, Turkish, and Korean.
Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world and according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where the internet usage is relatively higher in Korea than other countries.
K-scale (Korea scale) has been developed as a checklist for diagnosing and evaluating the rate of Internet addiction in South Korea. It was created by South Korean psychologists to measure the number of Internet usage under the age of 18. The government provides health assessments and assistance to those with high K-scale scores.
What are some common signals of technology addiction?
- Do you have this unbearable desire to get your hands on to your mobile device to check you’re the emails or your social media account the first thing in the morning or last thing at night?
- Do you spend more time with technology rather than pursuing other activities in your life?
- Do you panic when your mobile device is getting low on power?
- Do you get nervous if there is no Wi-Fi or connection signal on your mobile device or phone?
- Are you more concerned about letting down your online friends than those that are closest to you?
- Do you go out and meet with your friends and find yourself spending time on your mobile as you connect with others through social media, gaming and through group chats?
- Do you find it difficult to unplug? Regardless of the consequences, do you tell yourself and others that your use is a “lifestyle” choice?
If you have responded the majority of the above questions affirmatively, then the danger bells are ringing for you as well.
What can we do to prevent technology addiction?
The way technology addiction is diagnosed can differ from country to country, but statistics show that more people are suffering from Internet addiction. Here are some tips for preventing technology addiction:
Create technology free zones and times at home
Make a rule for banning technology at meal times. This is an excellent opportunity for you and your family to share and communicate. Make a rule to leave all technology out of the dinner table. Turn the television off, as background television will also distract this communication.
Choose outdoor activities over technology on the weekends
Make it a rule, that you cannot be online if you have not done an outdoor activity. Go for a walk, ride a bike or engage yourself and your family in any kind of healthy physical activity over the weekends. Do not forget to make this a technology free activity and leave your phones at home or shut them down and put them away from your reach.
Rearrange the family room furniture
If you have a common computer at home, place it in a communal area so that you can be around when your young children are using the Internet. Design your family room so that the television and computer are not in the area of focus.
Limit social media use
Limit your use of social media in your daily routines. Do not leave notifications on for your social media accounts. Try to put time limits on your own use of social media and log off when you are done.
Make a list of technology-free activities
Create technology free times and activities for you and your family. It is amazing how much quality time you can have without the technology. Prepare a list of activities with the family members for yourself and your family. Then try to do one each evening.
Stop always being available 24/7
Technology lets people work and be accessible no matter the place or time. Make an agreement with your co-workers on digital reachability outside of work.
Do not check your emails when you are on a vacation. In 2014, the German vehicle-maker Daimler has decided to respond with a message to all the emails that come during the vacation of the employee telling that the email would be deleted and should be resent after the vacation break (BBC News, 2014). Volkswagen followed Daimler by turning email off after office hours. New guidelines in France are ordering workers in some sectors to ignore work emails when they go home. So increasingly, companies are changing their strategies on after office hours. Bring this principle into your life and take a break!
Skip the morning digital check-in
Do not check your social media accounts or email in the morning as you wake up and over breakfast. Do some light stretching activities and mediation if possible? Your emails can wait until you get to work. Your social media accounts can wait until the time you have set for social media use.
Make a contract with your family members on technology use at home
Every family has different needs and beliefs. Therefore, it is important that you set up your guidelines and rules for technology use at home. Limit screen time for your children at home. Lead by example and make sure that every family member follows the contract terms.
Stop web searching for everything
Use your creativity and stop searching for do-it-yourself videos on YouTube. Stop searching for everything and trust your creativity and instincts. You will be amazed on how creative you might get in your projects.
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