We are living in an age where almost everything is in the palm of our hands. There is a sense of freedom to be able to connect to people across the world, check the weather in Hong Kong, buy a new pair of pants, and figure out where your favorite celebrity was born in a matter of seconds.
But does this freedom have the potential to become a personal prison as time progresses?
Did you actually want to scroll social media for the tenth time today? Do you find yourself losing hours being sucked into devices? You may be questioning how technology has been affecting your own, your children’s, or the world’s well being.
Is There a Diagnosis?
As of today, Screen or Tech addiction is not a disorder according to the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals. Having a diagnosis can impact what can be billed to insurance and also the clinical perspective. This could come as a surprise as stories come out about children not getting up to go to the bathroom because of gaming.
The 2017 Digital Future Project has found that the average American spends almost 24 hours a week on the internet. This has gone up about 15 hours since the year 2000. The dramatic increase through the years could be troubling. There are some elements of tech that are designed to get us “hooked”, but is this a true behavioral compulsion?
The clinical world is fairly split on whether or not screen time could be considered an addiction. Some hesitancy comes from not wanting to pathologize what can be very normal behavior in a digital age. Addiction is characterized as a chronic and relapsing disorder and this is a heavy label to place on anyone, especially for young people.
Even despite the question on if someone can be “addicted” to screens, it is widely known that devices can be problematic in a person’s life. Concern begins when the problem is causing significant distress and negatively impacting, social, work, or academic roles.
Impact of Screen Time
There can be both benefits and risks for device usage and there is a huge qualifier of “it depends” with screen time.
Social media could be a positive outlet or a destruction of self-esteem. Texting can keep you in the loop or lead to a car accident. Gaming could improve dexterity and transport you to another world or be the reason your relationship falls apart. Scrolling the web can be a way to unwind or be the reason someone was fired from work. Streaming shows can bring people together or completely offset your sleep schedule.
There are many variables to consider. The internet can be used as a tool for learning, self-development, entertainment, and connection and at the same time it can strip us of all of these things. Too much use could lead to feeling less productive, stagnant, or preoccupied with content.
What is Your Relationship with Screens?
The question of if a certain amount of screen time is healthy or unhealthy may not be the most helpful concern. In some ways technology is an unavoidable part of life, so finding a healthy, balanced relationship with it is essential. It is time to break away from black and white thinking and consider your own connection with technology.
Here are some questions for reflecting on your screen usage:
- Is technology impacting your ability to serve your basic human needs?
Our basic needs are getting adequate sleep, eating well, being physically active, and having face-to-face interactions with others. There may be several life circumstances that inhibit these, but if tech is greatly impacting these needs, it may be time to reassess. When our needs are met, we are not feeling or functioning at our best.
- Do you find yourself compromising your values to spend time on screens?
There may be a disparity between what you would like to be doing in life versus the time spent with screens. Are you wishing you spent more time in nature, are you craving more time with friends, do you have a book list you want to tackle? Your happiness may be compromised if you aren’t able to connect with these goals.
- Are your moods tied to technology use?
Do you find you become anxious if you aren’t able to check your phone? Maybe you use your phone daily to detach from reality. Does social media and how many likes you have could be directly tied to how you see yourself? Or are you using technology to avoid a deeper issue like depression or grief? Your emotional state with technology is important to consider.
- Is your screen time troubling to you?
This is probably the most important question on this list. If your relationship with screens is not what you want and you would like to change it, then that makes it important. It is okay to ask for help and brainstorm with others how this can be in better balance for you.