Lets start our digital education with a look at what digital wellness is.
The correct term goes something like ‘Digital wellness refers to physical and psycho-social well-being in a digital world’. Or in other words ‘how the time we spend in front of an electronic screen can impact on our physical and mental well being.
Psycho-social is the part studies the impact digital technology has on our mental health. In many countries digital addiction is a registered mental illness that can lead to feelings of irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, loss of sleep, increased anxiety and depression (Cash 2011). Over use of technology also impacts on our physical health and overuse can cause repetitive stress injuries, eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain.
At the moment we have a number of definitions like: Internet addiction, digital addiction, digital screen addiction, electronic screen syndrome, technology addiction disorder, whatever the name they all essentially relate to a person’s use of digital technology to the extent where that use impedes on their social and physical wellbeing. The term digital wellness is used to build awareness of ones use of technology and helps to put strategies in place to create a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
The term internet addiction was first used by Dr Kimberly Young when she founded the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995. To start with, cases were largely down to the hardened gamer, addicted to digital games. Since then technology has become increasingly mobile and more accessible. Around 2013 smart phone use really took off and Pew research showed 91% of adults owned a smart phone. Fast forward to 2018 we now have a new issue where 94% of teenagers own at least one smart phone, most of these have internet connection (Roy Morgan 2016).
Why does this matter? Put simply children are not ready, emotionally, for constant bombardment their minds receive from being online 24/7. There are links between the massive jump in the use of smartphones and the increase in teen depression and suicide (The Guardian). Around the time of 2012 a large national survey was conducted in the US. The surveyed showed the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless surged 33%. Teen suicide attempts increased 23% and the number of 13 to 18-year-old’s who committed suicide jumped 31%. In Australia these rates have been increasing at a similar rate (ABC News) and these raters also coincide with the education department’s decision to launch the BYOD in schools adding even more accessibility to the internet. Much of the disruption in schools is now digital related.
How can a Website, like Digital Wellness Hub help? We operate slightly differently, yes we are online but so are the people we wish to help. Where we differ is that we are willing to go out into the community to present the dangers of excessive screen time to parents and schools. Not just the students but parents and teacher as well because there is very little support in this area, which is strange as both are on the front line when it comes to identifying digital addiction issues. Add to this the fact that research shows adults often suffer from the similar issues we can start to identify why some children are affected more that others.
Children learn from their environment and if that environment is full of people with heads in screens they will do the same. Setting guidelines and rules for use of technology for all members of the family alike is very important if we are to improve the mental health and well-being of children in our local communities.
Signs of an addict
Please note that these characteristics are a guide and should not be used in place of seeking professional medical opinion.
Answering positively to five out of the eight questions may be indicative of an online addiction.
- Do you continuously think about using the Internet?
- Have you ever tried to cut back on the amount of time you spend online (internet, social media, messaging, games)
- Do you have the need to be online longer to be satisfied?
- Do you become moody, restless, irritable or depressed when you stop or decrease your Internet use?
- Do you find you are spending longer on the internet than you originally planned?
- Is your use of the internet and social media having a negative impact on relationships, work, education, or career?
- Are becoming secretive and try to hide the amount of time you spend online from family and friends?
- Does the Internet serve as an escape from problems or relief from a bad mood?
A little More History
China was the first country to officially recognise internet addiction as a clinical disorder in 2008. Since then South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have also added internet addiction to the list of mental disorders requiring clinical intervention.
Australia and European countries have been a little slower to catch on, but Australia has developed its first inpatient treatment program for adolescents in Sydney.
Dr Kimberly Young: