IMPACTS OF TECHNOLOGY ON MENTAL HEALTH OF YOUTH

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By: Amina Bhutta and Hajra Khizar  

Is technology changing us? In our ever-changing planet, the use of technology is incessantly expanding. We are now connected with technology more than ever and are accustomed to it due to its usage for professional work as well as for entertainment. However it has both positive and negative effects on our mental and physical health particularly in children and adolescents. While the advancement in technology has created ease in our lives, it also had negative impacts.

Positive Aspects of Technology

Covid-19 had caused obstacles everywhere around the world, causing the implementation of social distancing and eventually the lock down. It had become one major reason of increase in technology usage for professional work and entertainment purposes.

  • During this lockdown era, when people were confined inside their houses and were not able to meet up with friends and family, technology made it possible for everyone to keep in touch. It made communication possible for everyone.
  • Covid-19 impacted the mental health of everyone. Availability of gadgets made the accessibility to mental health providers possible. And many took a benefit out of it.
  • Visual therapy increased by up to 302%, according to a research.
  • 29% of psychologists said they were seeing more patients overall post Covid-19.
  • Access to self help tools was made easier. There are around 10,000-20,000 apps for mental health check.
  • 90% of the mental health app users said that they had increased confidence, motivation, and attitude about their emotional health.
  • 53% of these app users said that their depression became less intense.
  • It made access to information much easier and less time taking.

Negative Aspects of Technology

People are somewhat addicted to their screens. As the benefits exist, so do the negative effects. There are more negative effects than are positive ones.

Negative effects in adults and teenagers:

  • Higher use of social media makes people three times more likely to have increased social isolation and decreased social interaction.
  • People who perceive more negative interactions online are suspected to social comparison have higher levels of anxiety and depression.
  • People who spend over 6 hours per day watching TV, using the computer, or using another gadget are more likely to have moderate or severe depression levels, which also leads to poor posture and musculoskeletal issues.
  • This also causes decreased physical activity and an increase in sedentary lifestyle, which cause obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and diabetes type 2.
  • The use of bright screens repetitively for 5 days can delay circadian rhythms by 1.5 hours, especially its usage before bed disturbs sleep pattern in teen that contributes to depression, anxiety and acting out. Circadian Rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock and are linked to a master clock in the brain. Its most important function is sleep-wake cycle. During the day, light exposure give it alertness, keeping us active and awake all day. And at night, it increases the production of melatonin, a sleep promoting hormone. Circadian rhythms seem especially sensitive to blue light, as it has a short wavelength and our mobile screens normally emit blue light. That is why, before going to bed, limit your exposure to light by putting down electronic devices.
  • Eyestrain is also increasing due to the use of technology.

Negative effects in children:
As children brains are still developing and growing they can have more serious effects over their brains.

  • Children who use more technology are more likely to have mental issues such as poor academic performance, low creativity, lack of attention, delayed language development, delayed social and emotional development, increased physical inactivity and obesity, poor sleep quality, and a variety of other social issues such as social incompatibility anxiety, and aggressive behavior.
  • According to some studies, MRI scans revealed significant differences in the brains of some children who used smart phones, tablets, and video games for more than seven hours a day compared to other children. Children who used gadgets for more than two hours a day scored lower on thinking and language tests.
  • The increased use of technology may also interrupt children’s process of learning from their environment.

During Covid-19, there has been an increased report on the occurrence of anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress and thought problems in children. During quarantine, increased video gaming, online classes, and time spent on social media had psychological and neurological consequences.

We should use the 20-20-20 rule. This states that “After every 20 minutes of looking on your device look away at a 20 feet object for 20 seconds.” This helps in maintaining self eye health.

Technology is something we use every day. We enjoy it and benefit from it.

But think about before teens had 24/7 access to technology… they would go into their rooms at night and look around, maybe find a book on the shelf and read it. Boredom used to motivate them to try new things and interact with people; make connections. What happens now is that it’s really hard to be that bored anymore. You can pull out your smart phone, browse online, and go through social media. And so it satisfies us enough that we don’t feel like going out or interacting with people.

Social media gives a sense of connectivity, but it does not replace in-person, deeper connectivity in social relationships. There is always the social comparison that the kids are making when they see something that they don’t have. That makes them end up alone, isolated, and depressed.

The solution to this is that we give teens other activities to engage in. It’s not going to be easy, and we cannot expect them to do as we say immediately because we have lost a lot of time as it. By giving them the time that they need, they will feel more confident and re-engage in activities, make new friends, and maintain their old relationships. As their time gets filled with other activities, they will naturally spend less time on their phones scrolling and playing games!

Writer of the article (Amina Bhutta and Hajra Khizar ) are students of BS – Environmental Sciences

International Islamic University, Islamabad