This week is Mental Health Week and here at Balance Books we were interested in the affects that technology may be having on our Mental Health, specifically the mental health of our young people. There are certainly many positive benefits in the use of technology with improved communication, transport and business, as well as accessible education, and a multitude of other useful and favourable aspects.
The impacts on the mental health of our young people, however, are still being realised. There have been a huge multitude of studies done already on how technology may be affecting us. Professor Starcevic, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney Nepean Clinical School explains it well when he says that we are inside a living experiment because we don’t know yet what effects the changes in the way we communicate with each other, as a result of the pervasive use of social media and smartphone devices, will have on our interpersonal relationships.
Some research has found that the overuse of digital technology may affect brain development, sleep, mood, concentration, memory, learning and relationship behaviours. Also, psychological issues such as distraction, narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, and even depression. Beside affecting users’ mental health, use of technology can also have negative repercussions on physical health causing vision problems, hearing loss, and neck strain. Keep in mind these affects are from overuse or excessive use. Professor Starcevic says, “There’s a distinct difference between someone who plays video games a lot and someone who has a gaming addiction. Problematic online gaming can be defined as gaming that is so excessive that it results in neglecting school or work or creates conflicts in relationships, disruptive sleep patterns and unhealthy eating habits.”
Research has also found that users of social media might experience increased levels of social dissatisfaction and unhappiness as a result of comparing their happiness and popularity to that of their friends. They are also more likely to be socially isolated. It has also been found that spending extended periods on social media is associated with depression in young adults. Compared with people who checked social media less frequently, frequent checkers were 2.7 times more likely to develop depression. More than a quarter of study participants were classified as having high indicators of depression.
Parents often struggle to balance familial and digital connections, and they can face a constant battle trying to limit their child’s screen time. The importance of parental technological monitoring is only heightened by evidence such as the link between handheld screen time and speech delays in young children, the connection between mobile device addiction and depression and anxiety in college-age students, and the association between exposure to smartphone screens and lower sleep quality.
However, screen time for kids is not all bad. Research examining more than 120,000 adolescents found that evidence linking the relationship between screen time and well-being is weak at best, even at the highest levels of engagement. The findings, published in Psychological Science, suggest that moderate screen use has no effect on the well-being of teenagers.
What is more, a study published in Psychiatric Quarterly found only a small association between excessive screen time and levels of teenage depression and delinquency.
So, what is the takeaway from all of this? The saying ‘everything in moderation’ is true. Take care of your mental health and be mindful of the mental health of others. Attempt to live your life in balance and help your children learn how to do this as well. As life can be extremely busy for most of us it is important to make our mental health and wellbeing a priority. If you struggle to know what to do to create balance here are a few ideas: