Technology is a double-edged sword. It is empowering and destructive at the same time. Everyone knows the powerful feeling of having the world’s knowledge in the palm of their hand, the thrill of being able to buy anything from around the globe, and the excitement of talking to people anywhere in the world.
We have all seen the effects of people distracted by their smartphones. According to the CDC, distracted driving caused an average of nine deaths and 1,000 injuries per day. There are countless videos of people walking into fountains, into oncoming traffic, walls, and other things. Did you know that a high school student can concentrate an average of a measly three minutes at a stretch without checking their smartphone? There is a direct connection between the success rate in high schoolers attending college between those who managed their tech habits wisely and those who allow their tech habits to control their attention.
Expectation of Instant Gratification
A huge study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which surveyed 6.7 million users, showed that viewers tend to abandon online videos if they take more than two seconds to load. Most viewers stay on a single webpage long enough to read only 20% of text on the page, according to a survey by the Nielsen Norman Group. On an emotional level, posting a Facebook status, tweet, or an Instagram photo reinforces our need for instant positive feedback.
A study from the University of Western Illinois investigated the relationship between two aspects of narcissism, grandiose exhibitionism and entitlement/exploitativeness in relation to Facebook. Those who scored high on a test for grandiose exhibitionism tended to use Facebook for self-promoting activities, such as frequently updating statuses and posting photos. Those who showed high levels of entitlement/exploitativeness were likely to exhibit anti-social behaviors, such as reacting angrily to critical comments and posting in ways that sought support without supporting their friends in turn.
A study of Chinese youths with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) showed that internet-related adolescents tended to have reduced gray matter and white matter in key areas of the brain associated with “cognitive control” and goal-directed behavior. The damage varied according to the duration of the subject’s internet addiction, which may indicate that the negative effects of the disorder are progressive.
Lacking Social Skills
Too much time interacting with technology and too little time interacting with humans face-to-face can lead to some serious difficulties. According to a Stanford study, girls aged eight to 12 years who spend a lot of time consuming media report lower self-esteem and difficulty socializing compared to their less media-driven peers. The solution to this problem, according to author Clifford Nass, is for children to spend more time interacting with others face-to-face and thereby learning crucial skills in emotional development.
Young adults who spend more time than two hours a day on social media are more apt to feel isolated. A study by co-author Brian Primack, Director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburg, connected social media use and depression in young adults. Primack and his colleagues surveyed 1,787 United States adults aged 19 to 32 and asked them about their usage of 11 social media platforms. The survey found that people who reported spending more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel socially isolated when compared to those who spent half an hour or less per day on those sites.
An American Medical Association study in 2012 showed that round-the-clock exposure to artificial light, even low-level light from computer and TV screens can throw off our circadian rhythms. Negative side effects of this can range from depression and mood disorders to increased risk of cancer. A 2017 study of over half a million 8th-12th graders found high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65%. Smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015, 92% of teens and young adults owned a smartphone.
A team of psychologists from the University of Derby and Nottingham Trent University conducted an online study with 640 smartphone users, aged 13-69, to find out the association between smartphone use and personality traits. The study found that people who struggle with their mental health are more likely to intensively use their smartphone as a form of therapy and more likely they are to be addicted to their phones. It also revealed that as anxiety levels increase in an individual the more they use their smartphone.
Codependence of Parents
Modern teens are failing to separate from their parents and become independent thinkers, a major developmental step for adolescents. The cause is linked to smartphones and texting. Fifteen years ago, if a kid called his mother 10 times a day for advice, it would be concerning, but today it’s the new ‘normal.’ Rampant screen time seeps away connection with children that is critical for emotional development. For older children and teens, a heavy reliance on technology to communicate hinders their people skills and may even develop a sense of detachment from other’s feelings. This is creating generations of adults who are unable to move out on their own, hold a job, or make basic life decisions.
Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and smartphone use. Many people experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods, and the level of discomfort increases with the amount of digital screen use, according to the American Optometric Association. The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain are: eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain.
Neck and Shoulder Pain, Bone Spurs, and Muscle Joint Pain
A study published in 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports, found bone spurs on the bases of skulls on 400 adults, aged 18 to 86, and younger people were found to have larger growths. These bone spurs identified in the study ranged in size from 10 to 31 millimeters, and some were so big they could be felt as a lump on the back of the head. These growths are attributed to extensive screen time, sustained forward head tilting and poor posture. These findings are evidence of how extended use of technology in everyday life has led to physical changes.
Wear and tear on ears are normal, and it results in some hearing loss in seniors. But, what you do early in life sets the stage for how well you’ll hear as you age. If you use poorly fitted earbuds, attend loud concerts frequently, or shoot guns for target practice, hearing loss can arrive even in your 20s. Teens, in particular, crank up their iPhones loudly to drown out traffic noise, conversation, and even other music. About half of college students in urban settings risk hearing loss.
Multitasking is the new normal. While it feels like we’re more efficient, studies show it has the opposite effect. A study in multitasking found that participants had more difficulty filtering out irrelevant information than those focusing on one task at a time. Multitaskers also took longer to switch tasks, juggle problems, and wasted time searching for new information when the information they had was better and more reliable.
Obesity and Heart Problems
Sitting too long to play video games, surf social media, or watch videos has its own risk. Even people who work out regularly are still at an increased risk for a frightening list of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Researchers in a University of South Carolina study found that men who sit more than 23 hours per day have a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease.
The Sleep Health Foundation reports that the bright light from smartphones, tablets, computers, and television blocks the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin, after only 1.5 hours of using technology in the evening. The absorption of bright light through the eyes delays the release of melatonin, making it more difficult for people to fall asleep. The effects of nighttime electronics use are even greater with children and teens. Adolescents who text or post at night experience greater instances of daytime sleepiness and crankiness.