Digital technology has impacted human behaviour for many years and continues to change our world and how we behave. Most recently, enforced social distancing due to the pandemic has seen the move of many aspects of our lives online, which has meant virtual meetings with friends and family and also limited interaction within the work environment.
Digital technology has opened up access to vast pools of data in an instant and it is now possible to spend 24/7 connected and interacting with others on social media through PC and mobile devices.
Digital technology has helped us cope with daily tasks, with instant access to weather forecasts, train timetables and home delivery food orders at the touch of a button. At the same time, it allows us to pursue recreational activities including gaming at reputable gaming sites such as those found at this 888 casino review. Researchers have found that almost one-third of the world’s population uses the internet in one form or another, ranging from around 40 per cent across Africa to 95 per cent in North America.
Screen time does not measure human behaviour change
On average, researchers have found that individuals spend an average of seven hours online each day, half of that on mobile devices. Those aged between 16 to 24 spend the most time online, checking phones on average every 12 minutes. Calls to reclaim conversations and life offline led to advice to limit screen times, but this focus on screen time fails to give an accurate picture as to the positive impact of technology when the time is used actively rather than passively. The call for screen time limits continued for years before coming to a screeching halt with social distancing orders during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 which pushed many individual’s personal, professional, educational and cultural activities online.
Human needs met by social media
The brain is developing and growing throughout childhood and adolescence. The brain is dynamic and able to form to fit the environment. Imaging of the brains of those who played a lot of video games like Pokemon as children has shown that the perception of visual objects is heightened even several years later, whilst the area of the brain supporting language and literacy skills in preschoolers is less developed than average.
In adolescence, a time when the brain sees vast development in emotional and social behaviour, imaging has shown a link between time spent on social media contact and changes to brain anatomy which affect areas related to reward and decision making as well as neurotransmitter systems that are similar to those found in adults with addiction.
Other changes for those young people who have spent excessive time online is the loss of an ability to focus on a single task for a sustained period of time, which for some can lead to symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Other changes have been recorded in the way that memories are valued, stored and recalled.
The impact on social relationships through excessive use of social media is a paradoxical sense of social isolation at any age, disturbed sleep and particularly for young people, emotional and social immaturity. For many, it is believed that digital relationships are unnatural and therefore unhealthy since the human race has evolved to interact face-to-face, using all five senses, not just sight and sound. Yet this evolution also features a need for adolescents to feel connected as human beings, a wish for adventure and a need for information, all of which is provided by social media.
It’s all good
Many researchers have been unable to confirm a strong link between significant time spent on digital technology and mental health problems. However, multiple studies have seen offline and digital divides magnified through the pandemic which are forecast to increase in the future, which will see existing inequalities in education, mental health and prospects for youth also increase. However, screen time use has different effects. For those using the time passively the effects on behaviour are more negative than those using technology for more active, social reasons, though this impact is not necessarily long-lasting.
The use of digital technology has an impact on human behaviour that can be positive as well as negative. The impact is most significant for young children and adolescence where changes to the brain have been recorded through brain imaging technology. Whilst there is no concrete evidence that excessive time online is negative, it is generally understood that the use of digital technology should be understood so that the quality of time spent online is intentional, motivational, goal-oriented and within a strong social support background. Used wisely, digital technology maintains a healthy sense of wellbeing that benefits relationships at home and work.
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