From getting first-hand information at our fingertips to interacting with the world around us, it is beyond question how technology affects every area of our lives. Although it offers humanity the platform to access information that is beyond reach, its increased usage can greatly affect our mental health. The associated risks to technology happen when its use is not controlled. Every day, technological advancements keep increasing at the speed of light as breakthroughs in almost every field are a result of it. But, understanding its double-edged impact can greatly influence how we use it. Starting with its negative effects, let’s take a look at the various impacts of technology on our mental health.
Adverse Effects of Technology
According to Dr. Saju Matthew a board-certified family medicine physician, excessive exposure to bright lights from your smartphone, computer, and tablet can block the secretion of the hormone that helps you sleep. So it is advisable that you set a bedtime and you put away your phone and other smart devices that can interfere with your sleep as this time approaches. Sleep is very important to our health because it removes toxins that build up while you are awake from your brain, it also allows your body to repair itself. Poor sleep can affect your mood by causing anxiety disorders which weakens your body’s ability to fight diseases.
Are you always eager to know what’s up online past your bedtime? You may be suffering from problematic internet use. If you find it difficult to keep up with work demands or your relationships due to your mobile device. This may be a sign that it has taken over your life, and you should see a mental health physician.
Although social media connects you to the world. Its prolonged use can disconnect you from family and friends in real life. It can make you feel inadequate and dissatisfied with your life when you compare your achievements to others. These negative emotions can affect your mood in a bad way by making you feel stressed and anxious. These symptoms will further increase your addiction to social media and the cycle continues if you don’t seek medical help on time. If you discover that your use of social media is making you angry, aggressive, or distracted, you need to control your use of it by reducing time spent online. Also, in a situation where you suffer from cyberbullying or you find yourself doing crazy things to get likes and shares, you may need to re-access your use of social media.
Digital Eye Strain
Do you experience eye discomfort when viewing digital screens for extended periods? This may be signs of digital eye strain. Digital eye strain goes along with symptoms such as dry eyes, itchy eyes, blurry vision, headache, difficulty in concentrating when reading, and increased sensitivity to light. Other factors responsible for digital eye strain are bad lighting, screen glare, and bad viewing distance. A poor vision can affect your daily tasks and social life which in turn will affect your mental health. To relieve your eyes from strain, reduce your screen time, and adjust the lighting around your environment.
According to a study, using smartphones for extended hours can cause problems in the nerves, joints, tendons around the shoulder and arm resulting in musculoskeletal disorders. Leaning forward when using a smartphone can stress your neck, spine, and shoulders. You can also experience repetitive stress injuries around the wrist and arms. Repetitive stress injury occurs when you stress the same muscles over time through bad posture. Symptoms include swelling, stiffness, weakness, numbness, and pain ranging from mild to severe. With this disorder, carrying out your daily activities can become a problem. If you don’t get social support on time, this can lead to depression.
If you are feeling pain from the use of technology, maintaining a proper posture while working and taking frequent breaks to stretch will reduce it but if symptoms persist, it is time to see a physician.
Children and Technology
Adults are not the only ones that suffer from the negative use of technology, technology affects the mental health of children and teenagers too because they spend a lot of time watching television, playing video games, and using tech toys. Too much screen time can cause sleep problems and behavioral problems in children too. Low academic performance and creativity have been associated with children who overuse technology. To control the negative effect of technology on children and teens, use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ screen time recommendation as a guide:
-Reduce the amount of time spent watching educational programs for children between 18 – 24 months.
-For children between ages 2-5 years, reduce non-educational programs to 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours during weekends.
-Incorporate healthy screen habits for children between ages 6 and older.
-Use the screen to build creativity and togetherness with family and friends.
-Help your child learn other activities like music, arts, and sports that do not involve a screen.
Positive Effects of Technology
With over 800 apps dedicated to mental health alone, technology has made mental therapy accessible via some mental health apps. Some of these applications provide valuable insights into how you can feel much better whenever you are feeling depressed. They come either free or affordable, making it easier for many people to get.
Many people living in areas far away from their primary care providers can access online treatment in a timely manner. While using smartphone apps cannot be compared to doctor-to-patient physical consultation, they provide vital information to mental health professionals.
Imagine a world without technology. Navigating physical interactions and mental wellbeing will have been impossible especially in a time when various lock-down restrictions are put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Although the pandemic increased online engagements across various social media platforms, it has provided an avenue for many people to provide and receive social support.
Optimizing the Use of Technology to Boost Mental Health?
You need no soothsayer to predict that technology will continue to change the world. Rather than exploit it to the point where it becomes harmful to your health, you can explore new ways to maximize its power to improve your mental health. This can be achieved by using wearable devices, telehealth, and health apps while also enjoying the bond that comes with spending time with real-life friends and families.