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  • 10 February 2020

Scrutinizing the effects of digital technology on mental health

  • Jonathan Haidt &

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The topic in brief

• There is an ongoing debate about whether social media and the use of digital devices are detrimental to mental health.

• Adolescents tend to be heavy users of these devices, and especially of social media.

• Rates of teenage depression began to rise around 2012, when adolescent use of social media became common (Fig. 1).

• Some evidence indicates that frequent users of social media have higher rates of depression and anxiety than do light users.

• But perhaps digital devices could provide a way of gathering data about mental health in a systematic way, and make interventions more timely.

Figure 1

Figure 1 | Depression on the rise. Rates of depression among teenagers in the United States have increased steadily since 2012. Rates are higher and are increasing more rapidly for girls than for boys. Some researchers think that social media is the cause of this increase, whereas others see social media as a way of tackling it. (Data taken from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Table 11.2b; go.nature.com/3ayjaww )

JONATHAN HAIDT: A guilty verdict

A sudden increase in the rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm was seen in adolescents — particularly girls — in the United States and the United Kingdom around 2012 or 2013 (see go.nature.com/2up38hw ). Only one suspect was in the right place at the right time to account for this sudden change: social media. Its use by teenagers increased most quickly between 2009 and 2011, by which point two-thirds of 15–17-year-olds were using it on a daily basis 1 . Some researchers defend social media, arguing that there is only circumstantial evidence for its role in mental-health problems 2 , 3 . And, indeed, several studies 2 , 3 show that there is only a small correlation between time spent on screens and bad mental-health outcomes. However, I present three arguments against this defence.

First, the papers that report small or null effects usually focus on ‘screen time’, but it is not films or video chats with friends that damage mental health. When research papers allow us to zoom in on social media, rather than looking at screen time as a whole, the correlations with depression are larger, and they are larger still when we look specifically at girls ( go.nature.com/2u74der ). The sex difference is robust, and there are several likely causes for it. Girls use social media much more than do boys (who, in turn, spend more of their time gaming). And, for girls more than boys, social life and status tend to revolve around intimacy and inclusion versus exclusion 4 , making them more vulnerable to both the ‘fear of missing out’ and the relational aggression that social media facilitates.

Second, although correlational studies can provide only circumstantial evidence, most of the experiments published in recent years have found evidence of causation ( go.nature.com/2u74der ). In these studies, people are randomly assigned to groups that are asked to continue using social media or to reduce their use substantially. After a few weeks, people who reduce their use generally report an improvement in mood or a reduction in loneliness or symptoms of depression.

essay on how technology affect our health

The best way forward

Third, many researchers seem to be thinking about social media as if it were sugar: safe in small to moderate quantities, and harmful only if teenagers consume large quantities. But, unlike sugar, social media does not act just on those who consume it. It has radically transformed the nature of peer relationships, family relationships and daily activities 5 . When most of the 11-year-olds in a class are on Instagram (as was the case in my son’s school), there can be pervasive effects on everyone. Children who opt out can find themselves isolated. A simple dose–response model cannot capture the full effects of social media, yet nearly all of the debate among researchers so far has been over the size of the dose–response effect. To cite just one suggestive finding of what lies beyond that model: network effects for depression and anxiety are large, and bad mental health spreads more contagiously between women than between men 6 .

In conclusion, digital media in general undoubtedly has many beneficial uses, including the treatment of mental illness. But if you focus on social media, you’ll find stronger evidence of harm, and less exculpatory evidence, especially for its millions of under-age users.

What should we do while researchers hash out the meaning of these conflicting findings? I would urge a focus on middle schools (roughly 11–13-year-olds in the United States), both for researchers and policymakers. Any US state could quickly conduct an informative experiment beginning this September: randomly assign a portion of school districts to ban smartphone access for students in middle school, while strongly encouraging parents to prevent their children from opening social-media accounts until they begin high school (at around 14). Within 2 years, we would know whether the policy reversed the otherwise steady rise of mental-health problems among middle-school students, and whether it also improved classroom dynamics (as rated by teachers) and test scores. Such system-wide and cross-school interventions would be an excellent way to study the emergent effects of social media on the social lives and mental health of today’s adolescents.

NICK ALLEN: Use digital technology to our advantage

It is appealing to condemn social media out of hand on the basis of the — generally rather poor-quality and inconsistent — evidence suggesting that its use is associated with mental-health problems 7 . But focusing only on its potential harmful effects is comparable to proposing that the only question to ask about cars is whether people can die driving them. The harmful effects might be real, but they don’t tell the full story. The task of research should be to understand what patterns of digital-device and social-media use can lead to beneficial versus harmful effects 7 , and to inform evidence-based approaches to policy, education and regulation.

Long-standing problems have hampered our efforts to improve access to, and the quality of, mental-health services and support. Digital technology has the potential to address some of these challenges. For instance, consider the challenges associated with collecting data on human behaviour. Assessment in mental-health care and research relies almost exclusively on self-reporting, but the resulting data are subjective and burdensome to collect. As a result, assessments are conducted so infrequently that they do not provide insights into the temporal dynamics of symptoms, which can be crucial for both diagnosis and treatment planning.

By contrast, mobile phones and other Internet-connected devices provide an opportunity to continuously collect objective information on behaviour in the context of people’s real lives, generating a rich data set that can provide insight into the extent and timing of mental-health needs in individuals 8 , 9 . By building apps that can track our digital exhaust (the data generated by our everyday digital lives, including our social-media use), we can gain insights into aspects of behaviour that are well-established building blocks of mental health and illness, such as mood, social communication, sleep and physical activity.

essay on how technology affect our health

Stress and the city

These data can, in turn, be used to empower individuals, by giving them actionable insights into patterns of behaviour that might otherwise have remained unseen. For example, subtle shifts in patterns of sleep or social communication can provide early warning signs of deteriorating mental health. Data on these patterns can be used to alert people to the need for self-management before the patterns — and the associated symptoms — become more severe. Individuals can also choose to share these data with health professionals or researchers. For instance, in the Our Data Helps initiative, individuals who have experienced a suicidal crisis, or the relatives of those who have died by suicide, can donate their digital data to research into suicide risk.

Because mobile devices are ever-present in people’s lives, they offer an opportunity to provide interventions that are timely, personalized and scalable. Currently, mental-health services are mainly provided through a century-old model in which they are made available at times chosen by the mental-health practitioner, rather than at the person’s time of greatest need. But Internet-connected devices are facilitating the development of a wave of ‘just-in-time’ interventions 10 for mental-health care and support.

A compelling example of these interventions involves short-term risk for suicide 9 , 11 — for which early detection could save many lives. Most of the effective approaches to suicide prevention work by interrupting suicidal actions and supporting alternative methods of coping at the moment of greatest risk. If these moments can be detected in an individual’s digital exhaust, a wide range of intervention options become available, from providing information about coping skills and social support, to the initiation of crisis responses. So far, just-in-time approaches have been applied mainly to behaviours such as eating or substance abuse 8 . But with the development of an appropriate research base, these approaches have the potential to provide a major advance in our ability to respond to, and prevent, mental-health crises.

These advantages are particularly relevant to teenagers. Because of their extensive use of digital devices, adolescents are especially vulnerable to the devices’ risks and burdens. And, given the increases in mental-health problems in this age group, teens would also benefit most from improvements in mental-health prevention and treatment. If we use the social and data-gathering functions of Internet-connected devices in the right ways, we might achieve breakthroughs in our ability to improve mental health and well-being.

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Competing Interests

N.A. has an equity interest in Ksana Health, a company he co-founded and which has the sole commercial licence for certain versions of the Effortless Assessment of Risk States (EARS) mobile-phone application and some related EARS tools. This intellectual property was developed as part of his research at the University of Oregon’s Center for Digital Mental Health (CDMH).

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How Technology Affects Our Lives – Essay

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Do you wish to explore the use of information technology in daily life? Essays like the one below discuss this topic in depth. Read on to find out more.

Introduction

Technology in communication, technology in healthcare, technology in government, technology in education, technology in business, negative impact of technology.

Technology is a vital component of life in the modern world. People are so dependent on technology that they cannot live without it. Technology is important and useful in all areas of human life today. It has made life easy and comfortable by making communication and transport faster and easier (Harrington, 2011, p.35).

It has made education accessible to all and has improved healthcare services. Technology has made the world smaller and a better place to live. Without technology, fulfilling human needs would be a difficult task. Before the advent of technology, human beings were still fulfilling their needs. However, with technology, fulfillment of needs has become easier and faster.

It is unimaginable how life would be without technology. Technology is useful in the following areas: transport, communication, interaction, education, healthcare, and business (Harrington, 2011, p.35). Despite its benefits, technology has negative impacts on society. Examples of negative impacts of technology include the development of controversial medical practices such as stem cell research and the embracement of solitude due to changes in interaction methods. For example, social media has changed the way people interact.

Technology has led to the introduction of cloning, which is highly controversial because of its ethical and moral implications. The growth of technology has changed the world significantly and has influenced life in a great way. Technology is changing every day and continuing to influence areas of communication, healthcare, governance, education, and business.

Technology has contributed fundamentally in improving people’s lifestyles. It has improved communication by incorporating the Internet and devices such as mobile phones into people’s lives. The first technological invention to have an impact on communication was the discovery of the telephone by Graham Bell in 1875.

Since then, other inventions such as the Internet and the mobile phone have made communication faster and easier. For example, the Internet has improved ways through which people exchange views, opinions, and ideas through online discussions (Harrington, 2011, p.38). Unlike in the past when people who were in different geographical regions could not easily communicate, technology has eradicated that communication barrier. People in different geographical regions can send and receive messages within seconds.

Online discussions have made it easy for people to keep in touch. In addition, they have made socializing easy. Through online discussions, people find better solutions to problems by exchanging opinions and ideas (Harrington, 2011, p.39). Examples of technological inventions that facilitate online discussions include emails, online forums, dating websites, and social media sites.

Another technological invention that changed communication was the mobile phone. In the past, people relied on letters to send messages to people who were far away. Mobile phones have made communication efficient and reliable. They facilitate both local and international communication.

In addition, they enable people to respond to emergencies and other situations that require quick responses. Other uses of cell phones include the transfer of data through applications such as infrared and Bluetooth, entertainment, and their use as miniature personal computers (Harrington, 2011, p.40).

The latest versions of mobile phones are fitted with applications that enable them to access the Internet. This provides loads of information in diverse fields for mobile phone users. For business owners, mobile phones enhance the efficiency of their business operations because they are able to keep in touch with their employees and suppliers (Harrington, 2011, p.41). In addition, they are able to receive any information about the progress of their business in a short period of time.

Technology has contributed significantly to the healthcare sector. For example, it has made vital contributions in the fields of disease prevention and health promotion. Technology has aided in the understanding of the pathophysiology of diseases, which has led to the prevention of many diseases. For example, understanding the pathophysiology of the gastrointestinal tract and blood diseases has aided in their effective management (Harrington, 2011, p.49).

Technology has enabled practitioners in the medical field to make discoveries that have changed the healthcare sector. These include the discovery that peptic ulceration is caused by a bacterial infection and the development of drugs to treat schizophrenia and depressive disorders that afflict a greater portion of the population (Harrington, 2011, p.53). The development of vaccines against polio and measles led to their total eradication.

Children who are vaccinated against these diseases are not at risk of contracting the diseases. The development of vaccines was facilitated by technology, without which certain diseases would still be causing deaths in great numbers. Vaccines play a significant role in disease prevention.

Technology is used in health promotion in different ways. First, health practitioners use various technological methods to improve health care. eHealth refers to the use of information technology to improve healthcare by providing information on the Internet to people. In this field, technology is used in three main ways.

These include its use as an intervention tool, its use in conducting research studies, and its use for professional development (Lintonen et al, 2008, p. 560). According to Lintonenet al (2008), “e-health is the use of emerging information and communications technology, especially the internet, to improve or enable health and healthcare.” (p.560). It is largely used to support health care interventions that are mainly directed towards individual persons. Secondly, it is used to improve the well-being of patients during recovery.

Bedside technology has contributed significantly in helping patients recover. For example, medical professionals have started using the Xbox computer technology to develop a revolutionary process that measures limb movements in stroke patients (Tanja-Dijkstra, 2011, p.48). This helps them recover their manual competencies. The main aim of this technology is to help stroke patients do more exercises to increase their recovery rate and reduce the frequency of visits to the hospital (Lintonen et al, 2008, p. 560).

The government has utilized technology in two main areas. These include the facilitation of the delivery of citizen services and the improvement of defense and national security (Scholl, 2010, p.62). The government is spending large sums of money on wireless technologies, mobile gadgets, and technological applications. This is in an effort to improve their operations and ensure that the needs of citizens are fulfilled.

For example, in order to enhance safety and improve service delivery, Cisco developed a networking approach known as Connected Communities. This networking system connects citizens with the government and the community. The system was developed to improve the safety and security of citizens, improve service delivery by the government, empower citizens, and encourage economic development.

The government uses technology to provide information and services to citizens. This encourages economic development and fosters social inclusion (Scholl, 2010, p.62). Technology is also useful in improving national security and the safety of citizens. It integrates several wireless technologies and applications that make it easy for security agencies to access and share important information effectively. Technology is widely used by security agencies to reduce vulnerability to terrorism.

Technologically advanced gadgets are used in airports, hospitals, shopping malls, and public buildings to screen people for explosives and potentially dangerous materials or gadgets that may compromise the safety of citizens (Bonvillian and Sharp, 2001, par2). In addition, security agencies use surveillance systems to restrict access to certain areas. They also use technologically advanced screening and tracking methods to improve security in places that are prone to terrorist attacks (Bonvillian and Sharp, 2001, par3).

Technology has made significant contributions in the education sector. It is used to enhance teaching and learning through the use of different technological methods and resources. These include classrooms with digital tools such as computers that facilitate learning, online learning schools, blended learning, and a wide variety of online learning resources (Barnett, 1997, p.74). Digital learning tools that are used in classrooms facilitate learning in different ways. They expand the scope of learning materials and experiences for students, improve student participation in learning, make learning easier and quick, and reduce the cost of education (Barnett, 1997, p.75). For example, online schools and free learning materials reduce the costs that are incurred in purchasing learning materials. They are readily available online. In addition, they reduce the expenses that are incurred in program delivery.

Technology has improved the process of teaching by introducing new methods that facilitate connected teaching. These methods virtually connect teachers to their students. Teachers are able to provide learning materials and the course content to students effectively. In addition, teachers are able to give students an opportunity to personalize learning and access all learning materials that they provide. Technology enables teachers to serve the academic needs of different students.

In addition, it enhances learning because the problem of distance is eradicated, and students can contact their teachers easily (Barnett, 1997, p.76). Technology plays a significant role in changing how teachers teach. It enables educators to evaluate the learning abilities of different students in order to devise teaching methods that are most efficient in the achievement of learning objectives.

Through technology, teachers are able to relate well with their students, and they are able to help and guide them. Educators assume the role of coaches, advisors, and experts in their areas of teaching. Technology helps make teaching and learning enjoyable and gives it meaning that goes beyond the traditional classroom set-up system (Barnett, 1997, p.81).

Technology is used in the business world to improve efficiency and increase productivity. Most important, technology is used as a tool to foster innovation and creativity (Ray, 2004, p.62). Other benefits of technology to businesses include the reduction of injury risk to employees and improved competitiveness in the markets. For example, many manufacturing businesses use automated systems instead of manual systems. These systems eliminate the costs of hiring employees to oversee manufacturing processes.

They also increase productivity and improve the accuracy of the processes because of the reduction of errors (Ray, 2004, p.63). Technology improves productivity due to Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM), Computer-integrated Manufacturing (CIM), and Computer-aided Design (CAD). CAM reduces labor costs, increases the speed of production, and ensures a higher level of accuracy (Hunt, 2008, p.44). CIM reduces labor costs, while CAD improves the quality and standards of products and reduces the cost of production.

Another example of the use of technology in improving productivity and output is the use of database systems to store data and information. Many businesses store their data and other information in database systems that make accessibility of information fast, easy, and reliable (Pages, 2010, p.44).

Technology has changed how international business is conducted. With the advent of e-commerce, businesses became able to trade through the Internet on the international market (Ray, 2004, p.69). This means that there is a large market for products and services. In addition, it implies that most markets are open 24 hours a day.

For example, customers can shop for books or music on Amazon.com at any time of the day. E-commerce has given businesses the opportunity to expand and operate internationally. Countries such as China and Brazil are taking advantage of opportunities presented by technology to grow their economy.

E-commerce reduces the complexities involved in conducting international trade (Ray, 2004, p.71). Its many components make international trade easy and fast. For example, a BOES system allows merchants to execute trade transactions in any language or currency, monitor all steps involved in transactions, and calculate all costs involved, such as taxes and freight costs (Yates, 2006, p.426).

Financial researchers claim that a BOES system is capable of reducing the cost of an international transaction by approximately 30% (Ray, 2004, p.74). BOES enables businesses to import and export different products through the Internet. This system of trade is efficient and creates a fair environment in which small and medium-sized companies can compete with large companies that dominate the market.

Despite its many benefits, technology has negative impacts. It has negative impacts on society because it affects communication and has changed the way people view social life. First, people have become more anti-social because of changes in methods of socializing (Harrington, 2008, p.103). Today, one does not need to interact physically with another person in order to establish a relationship.

The Internet is awash with dating sites that are full of people looking for partners and friends. The ease of forming friendships and relationships through the Internet has discouraged many people from engaging in traditional socializing activities. Secondly, technology has affected the economic statuses of many families because of high rates of unemployment. People lose jobs when organizations and businesses embrace technology (Harrington, 2008, p.105).

For example, many employees lose their jobs when manufacturing companies replace them with automated machines that are more efficient and cost-effective. Many families are struggling because of the lack of a constant stream of income. On the other hand, technology has led to the closure of certain companies because the world does not need their services. This is prompted by technological advancements.

For example, the invention of digital cameras forced Kodak to close down because people no longer needed analog cameras. Digital cameras replaced analog cameras because they are easy to use and efficient. Many people lost their jobs due to changes in technology. Thirdly, technology has made people lazy and unwilling to engage in strenuous activities (Harrington, 2008, p.113).

For example, video games have replaced physical activities that are vital in improving the health of young people. Children spend a lot of time watching television and playing video games such that they have little or no time for physical activities. This has encouraged the proliferation of unhealthy eating habits that lead to conditions such as diabetes.

Technology has elicited heated debates in the healthcare sector. Technology has led to medical practices such as stem cell research, implant embryos, and assisted reproduction. Even though these practices have been proven viable, they are highly criticized on the grounds of their moral implications on society.

There are many controversial medical technologies, such as gene therapy, pharmacogenomics, and stem cell research (Hunt, 2008, p.113). The use of genetic research in finding new cures for diseases is imperative and laudable. However, the medical implications of these disease treatment methods and the ethical and moral issues associated with the treatment methods are critical. Gene therapy is mostly rejected by religious people.

They claim that it is against natural law to alter the gene composition of a person in any way (Hunt, 2008, p.114). The use of embryonic stem cells in research is highly controversial, unlike the use of adult stem cells. The controversy exists because of the source of the stem cells. The cells are obtained from embryos. There is a belief among many people that life starts after conception.

Therefore, using embryos in research means killing them to obtain their cells for research. The use of embryo cells in research is considered in the same light as abortion: eliminating a life (Hunt, 2008, p.119). These issues have led to disagreements between the science and the religious worlds.

Technology is a vital component of life in the modern world. People are so dependent on technology that they cannot live without it. Technology is important and useful in all areas of human life today.

It has made life easy and comfortable by making communication faster and travel faster, making movements between places easier, making actions quick, and easing interactions. Technology is useful in the following areas of life: transport, communication, interaction, education, healthcare, and business. Despite its benefits, technology has negative impacts on society.

Technology has eased communication and transport. The discovery of the telephone and the later invention of the mobile phone changed the face of communication entirely. People in different geographical regions can communicate easily and in record time. In the field of health care, technology has made significant contributions in disease prevention and health promotion. The development of vaccines has eradicated certain diseases, and the use of the Internet is vital in promoting health and health care.

The government uses technology to enhance the delivery of services to citizens and the improvement of defense and security. In the education sector, teaching and learning processes have undergone significant changes owing to the impact of technology. Teachers are able to relate to different types of learners, and the learners have access to various resources and learning materials. Businesses benefit from technology through the reduction of costs and increased efficiency of business operations.

Despite the benefits, technology has certain disadvantages. It has negatively affected human interactions and socialization and has led to widespread unemployment. In addition, its application in the healthcare sector has elicited controversies due to certain medical practices such as stem cell research and gene therapy. Technology is very important and has made life easier and more comfortable than it was in the past.

Barnett, L. (1997). Using Technology in Teaching and Learning . New York: Routledge.

Bonvillian, W., and Sharp, K. (2011). Homeland Security Technology . Retrieved from https://issues.org/bonvillian/ .

Harrington, J. (2011). Technology and Society . New York: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Hunt, S. (2008). Controversies in Treatment Approaches: Gene Therapy, IVF, Stem Cells and Pharmagenomics. Nature Education , 19(1), 112-134.

Lintonen, P., Konu, A., and Seedhouse, D. (2008). Information Technology in Health Promotion. Health Education Research , 23(3), 560-566.

Pages, J., Bikifalvi, A., and De Castro Vila, R. (2010). The Use and Impact of Technology in Factory Environments: Evidence from a Survey of Manufacturing Industry in Spain. International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology , 47(1), 182-190.

Ray, R. (2004). Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses . New York: AMACOM Div American Management Association.

Scholl, H. (2010). E-government: Information, Technology and Transformation . New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Tanja-Dijkstra, K. (2011). The Impact of Bedside Technology on Patients’ Well-Being. Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD) , 5(1), 43-51.

Yates, J. (2006). How Business Enterprises use Technology: Extending the Demand-Side Turn. Enterprise and Society , 7(3), 422-425.

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How Does Technology Affect Mental Health?

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Counseling Resources

Young female with brown hair sitting on the floor against the wall while looking at the tablet

Upon completion of a Master of Arts in Counseling degree , individuals can choose to work as mental health counselors — individuals who help clients living with varying mental health and/or interpersonal issues. For example, a mental health counselor may meet with a bereaved woman in the morning who recently has lost her husband, and then a young man in his 20s in the afternoon who is living with an anxiety disorder. The role is challenging and rewarding, and necessitates understanding and expertise for a whole spectrum of mental health concerns.

Given the ubiquity of technology in daily life — particularly the internet and internet-based platforms such as social media sites and smartphone apps — mental health counselors working today likely will encounter clients who are experiencing issues that may be directly or indirectly linked to the use of digital media. According to Dr. Igor Pantic, writing in the literature review “Online Social Networking and Mental Health,” published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is little doubt that the internet and social media platforms such as Facebook have had a notable impact on the way that individuals communicate.

Pantic further explained that a number of recent studies have observed a link between social media use and certain mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Pantic is quick to assert, however, that the studies are by no means conclusive and that endeavors to understand the relationship between mental health and technology remain in their infancy.

Still, it is useful for mental health counselors to have an understanding of the research and insights into technology’s impact on mental health, which extends to the positive impacts, as well. After all, drawbacks aside, technology continues to improve many aspects of daily life for the better, and the arena of mental health is no exception: there are a number of observable areas in which the development of technology has helped clients take charge of their mental health care in a positive way.

Technology: A force for good?

Despite progress in terms of mental health awareness, journalist Conor Farrington, writing for the Guardian, explained how mental health care still receives a notable lack of funding from international governments. For example, Farrington reported that the per capita expenses on mental health care in industrialized nations such as the U.S. and U.K. amounts to just over $33, which equates to a little under £33. The amount is considerably less in developing countries. Consequently, Farrington argued that technology holds promise as a vehicle for improving access to mental health care, particularly in nations where such services are elementary at best.

Technology is improving mental health care in a number of ways, Lena H. Sun explained, writing for the Los Angeles Times, and it is primarily through platforms such as apps based on smartphones and computers that can help provide services and information to clients in a more cost-effective way. For example, Sun explained how there are now, in addition to smartphone apps that promote mental wellness, certain platforms available that allow patients to complete courses of cognitive behavioral therapy online. In her article, Sun profiled a British-based service known as the Big White Wall, which has been endorsed by the U.K.’s government-funded National Health Service. Big White Wall is an online platform that enables users living with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression to manage their symptoms from home via tools such as educational resources, online conversations and virtual classes on issues of mental health. The efficacy of Big White Wall is conspicuous — Sun reported on a 2009 study that found that a vast majority of the service’s users —some 95 percent —noted an improvement in their symptoms.

School counseling session

How can counselors harness technology?

Mental health counselors can play an important role in facilitating access to services such as Big White Wall and also can help promote smartphone apps and other online services that can be used to help improve general mental health. Technology can be used alongside in-person counseling, as opposed to being employed as a substitution. Counselors even may find that digital platforms allow the development of deeper working relationships with clients, particularly younger clients who are used to utilizing technology on a daily basis. Bethany Bay, writing in an article for Counseling Today, interviewed Sarah Spiegelhoff, a counselor from Syracuse, N.Y., who elaborated on this important point :

“I find technology resources to be great tools to supplement traditional counseling services, as well as a way for counselors to reach larger populations than we typically serve on an individual basis […] I find that college students are quicker to check Facebook and Twitter statuses than their email, so using social media has been one way for us to promote and distribute information on healthy living and outreach events […] I also share information related to new apps that promote wellness both through our social media accounts and directly in counseling sessions. For example, during alcohol awareness programming, we encouraged students to download free blood alcohol calculator apps. We also offer free mindfulness meditation MP3s through iTunes. I find the MP3s to be a great resource because I am able to present them to clients in session, talk about their experiences listening to and practicing the meditations and then develop a treatment plan that includes their use of the meditations outside of the counseling sessions.”

Counselors also can use platforms to connect with clients who may be situated in underserved or rural areas and are unable to travel for in-person meetings. As Farrington explained, some studies, including one from Oxford University, have found that text messaging and phone calls can be effective ways for counselors to connect with clients. Furthermore, telehealth platforms, which include instant messaging or video calling, already are proving useful in primary care settings for helping counselors reach clients. For example, Rob Reinhardt, writing for Counseling Today, interviewed Tasha Holland-Kornegay, a counseling professional who primarily provides counseling services to clients living with HIV via a messaging platform, which incorporates the option for video and audio calls.

Reinhardt, writing in a different piece published by Tame Your Practice, explained how the use of telemedicine platforms in mental health counseling has been shown to be beneficial in a number of ways. Perhaps most importantly, Reinhardt cited a study from researchers based at the University of Zurich, as detailed by Science Daily, which found that counseling conducted online actually can be more effective than face-to-face sessions. Researchers examined two groups of clients — one group received in-person therapy and the other received therapy via a telemedicine platform. Researchers found that the clients who received counseling sessions online actually experienced better outcomes — 53 percent reported that their depression had abated, compared to 50 percent reporting the same in the group that received in-person counseling. Other benefits include the fact that it is cheaper and allows a wider net of clients to be seen and treated, particularly those who are unable to access mental health services in person, whether due to geography, lack of funds or issues such as social anxiety disorder.

A point of clarification needs to be made, however. Whereas counselors may indeed use online technologies to aid the counseling process or to provide counseling services, they always must abide by the ethical guidelines on the use of technologies. These guidelines can be found in the Ethics Code of American Counseling Association and through the National Board for Certified Counselors’ website. Furthermore, counselors are required by law to be licensed in the locations where their clients reside.

Can technology have an adverse impact on mental health?

Although the use of technology can have a positive impact in terms of helping clients manage and get treated for certain mental health conditions, some research has indicated that the use of technology in general — and especially the internet — actually can be connected with the development of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression in some individuals. As Pantic noted, while more research is needed in this area, it is useful to take a closer look at what has been published on this topic so far:

Internet addiction

As detailed by Dr. Romeo Vitelli, writing in an article published by Psychology Today, research has indicated that addiction to the internet , particularly among younger demographics such as adolescents, is becoming a notable issue. Vitelli explained that internet addiction disorder shares many similar features when compared with other forms of addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms when online access is precluded. While the internet can be an agent for good in terms of education and the strengthening of interpersonal relationships, internet addiction can be problematic because it can negatively impact academic success and one’s ability to communicate effectively in person. Vitalli noted that research also has observed a link between certain mental illnesses and internet addiction, including depression, low self-esteem and loneliness.

The link between social media use and mental illness

In his literature review, Pantic explained how several studies have shown a link between depression and the use of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Pantic is quick to caution that much more research is needed before the conclusions reached in the aforementioned studies are widely accepted as fact within the counseling community. Still, the findings are worth examining. Pantic reported on one study from 2013, which found that younger adults who frequently used the social networking site Facebook tended to report feeling less happy, with the use of the social platform possibly to blame. Pantic also reported on a study that he personally was involved with that found among high school students, rates of depression tended to be higher among those who regularly utilized social media sites.

Pantic proffered some possible reasons for the findings, explaining that social media sites, for some individuals, can trigger feelings of low self-esteem. For example, a social media site user may see other people on the site and assume those individuals are more successful, beautiful, intelligent and so on. Pantic explained that a study examining students at a Utah university found those who routinely used social media sites tended to feel as though their peers were more successful and happier than they were. Pantic noted that although these feelings are not necessarily linked to depression, there can be a relationship between them, particularly if the individuals in question already experience or are likely to experience mental health problems.

Dr. Saju Mathew was interviewed for an article by Piedmont Health, wherein he elaborated on this important point : “When we get on social media, we are looking for affirmation and consciously or not, we are comparing our life to the lives of others. As a result, we may not enjoy what’s in the moment.”

In conclusion

The impact of technology has extended into the realm of health care, and it is clear that technology also is making positive changes in terms of mental health care. Research has indicated, however, that the very tools that can help alleviate mental health issues, such as smartphone apps, may be linked with the experience of mental health problems in different contexts. As Pantic stressed, more research is needed before definitive conclusions are drawn. Still, for mental health counselors entering the field, a comprehensive understanding of the nuanced relationship between technology and mental health is necessary for effective practice. Counselors are compelled to expand their technological competencies but always in compliance with their respective ethical guidelines and the rule of law.

Consider Bradley University

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a mental health counselor, consider applying to Bradley University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling — Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Designed with a busy schedule in mind, completion of the degree program will put you on a direct path to becoming licensed to practice.

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Substance abuse counseling: What you can learn in a MAC program

What are the Clinical Mental Health specialty courses?

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For Better or Worse, Technology Is Taking Over the Health World

Sarah Fielding is a freelance writer covering a range of topics with a focus on mental health and women's issues.

essay on how technology affect our health

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

essay on how technology affect our health

Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content. He keeps a DSM-5 on hand just in case.

essay on how technology affect our health

For many people over the past year and a half, the world has existed primarily through a screen. With social distancing measures in place to protect individuals from becoming infected with the coronavirus, technology has stepped in to fill the void of physical connections. It’s also become a space for navigating existing and new mental health conditions through virtual therapy sessions, meditation apps, mental health influencers, and beyond.

“Over the years, mental health and technology have started touching each other more and more, and the pandemic accelerated that in an unprecedented way,” says Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD , the head of research at The Mental Health Coalition , a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University. “This is especially the case because the pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health for everyone as we struggle to make sense of an overwhelming new world and can find mental health information and services online.” 

This shift is especially critical, with a tremendous spike occurring in mental health conditions. In the period between January and June 2019, 11% of US adults reported experiencing symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. In January 2021, 10 months into the pandemic, in one survey that number increased to 41.1%. Research also points to a potential connection for some between having COVID-19 and developing a mental health condition—whether or not you previously had one.

The pandemic’s bridge between mental health and technology has helped to “meet the needs of many suffering from depression, anxiety, life transition, grief, family conflict, and addiction,” says Miyume McKinley, MSW, LCSW , a psychotherapist and founder of Epiphany Counseling, Consulting & Treatment Services.

Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD

The risk of greater access is that the floodgates are open for anyone to say anything about mental health, and there’s no vetting process or way to truly check credibility.

This increased reliance on technology to facilitate mental health care and support appears to be a permanent one. Torres-Mackie has witnessed mental health clinicians drop their apprehension around virtual services throughout the pandemic and believes they will continue for good.

“Almost all therapists seem to be at least offering virtual sessions, and a good portion have transitioned their practices to be entirely virtual, giving up their traditional in-person offices,” adds Carrie Torn, MSW, LCSW , a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The general public is also more receptive to technology’s expanded role in mental health care. “The pandemic has created a lasting relationship between technology, and it has helped increase access to mental health services across the world,” says McKinley. “There are lots of people seeking help who would not have done so prior to the pandemic, either due to the discomfort or because they simply didn’t know it was possible to obtain such services via technology.”

Accessibility Is a Tremendous Benefit of Technology

Every expert interviewed agreed: Accessibility is an undeniable and indispensable benefit of mental health’s increasing presence online. Torn points out, “We can access information, including mental health information and treatment like never before, and it’s low cost.”

A 2018 study found that, at the time, 74% of Americans didn’t view mental health as accessible to everyone. Participants cited long wait times, a lack of affordable options, low awareness, and social stigma as barriers to mental health care. The evolution of mental health and technology has alleviated some of these issues—whether it be through influencers creating open discussions around mental health and normalizing it or low-cost therapy apps . In addition, wait times may reduce when people are no longer tied to seeing a therapist in their immediate area.

While some people may still be apprehensive about trying digital therapy, research has shown that it is an effective strategy for managing your mental health. A 2020 review of 17 studies published in EClinicalMedicine found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions were at least as effective at reducing the severity of depression symptoms than in-person sessions. There wasn’t a significant difference in participant satisfaction between the two options.

There Are Limitations to Mental Health and Technology’s Increasing Closeness

One of the most prevalent limitations of technology-fueled mental health care and awareness is the possibility of misleading or inaccurate information.  

If you’re attending digital sessions with a therapist, it’s easy to check their qualifications and reviews. However, for most other online mental health resources, it can be more challenging but remains just as critical to verify their expertise and benefits. “The risk of greater access is that the floodgates are open for anyone to say anything about mental health, and there’s no vetting process or way to truly check credibility,” says Torres-Mackle.

To that point, James Giordano, PhD, MPhil , professor of neurology and ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center and author of the book “Neurotechnology: Premises, Potential, and Problems,” cautions that, while there are guiding institutions, the market still contains “unregulated products, resources, and services, many of which are available via the internet. Thus, it’s very important to engage due diligence when considering the use of any mental health technology .” 

 Verywell / Alison Czinkota 

McKinley raises another valuable point: A person’s home is not always a space they can securely explore their mental health. “For many individuals, home is not a safe place due to abuse, addiction, toxic family, or unhealthy living environments,” she says. “Despite technology offering a means of support, if the home is not a safe place, many people won’t seek the help or mental health treatment that they need. For some, the therapy office is the only safe place they have.” Due to the pandemic and a general limit on private places outside of the home to dive into your personal feelings, someone in this situation may struggle to find opportunities for help.

Miyume McKinley, MSW, LCSW

There are lots of people seeking help that would not have done so prior to the pandemic, either due to the discomfort or because they simply didn’t know it was possible to obtain such services via technology.

Torn explains that therapists who work for tech platforms can also suffer due to burnout and low pay. She claims that some of these platforms prioritize seeing new clients instead of providing time for existing clients to grow their relationship. “I’ve heard about clients having to jump from one therapist to the next, or therapists who can’t even leave stops open for their existing clients, and instead their schedule gets filled with new clients,” she says. “Therapists are burning out in general right now, and especially on these platforms, which leads to a lower quality of care for clients.”

Screen Time Can Also Have a Negative Impact

As mental health care continues to spread into online platforms, clinicians and individuals must contend with society’s growing addiction to tech and extended screen time’s negative aspects.

Social media, in particular, has been shown to impact an individual’s mental health negatively. A 2019 study looked at how social media affected feelings of social isolation in 1,178 students aged 18 to 30. While having a positive experience on social media didn’t improve it, each 10% increase in negative experiences elevated social isolation feelings by 13%.

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

While certain aspects like Zoom therapy and mental health influencers require looking at a screen, you can use other digital options such as meditation apps without constantly staring at your device.

What to Be Mindful of as You Explore Mental Health Within Technology

Nothing is all bad or all good and that stands true for mental health’s increased presence within technology. What’s critical is being aware that “technology is a tool, and just like any tool, its impact depends on how it's used,” says Torres-Mackie.

For example, technology can produce positive results if you use the digital space to access treatment that you may have struggled to otherwise, support your mental well-being, or gather helpful—and credible—information about mental health. In contrast, she explains that diving into social media or other avenues only to compare yourself with others and avoid your responsibilities can have negative repercussions on your mental health and relationships. 

Giordano expresses the importance of staying vigilant about your relationship with and reliance on tech and your power to control it. 

With that in mind, pay attention to how much time you spend online. “We are spending less time outside, and more time glued to our screens. People are constantly comparing their lives to someone else's on social media, making it harder to be present in the moment and actually live our lives,” says Torn. 

Between the increase in necessary services moving online and trying to connect with people through a screen, it’s critical to take time away from your devices. According to a 2018 study, changing your social media habits, in particular, can improve your overall well-being . Participants limited Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat use to 10 minutes a day per platform for three weeks. At the end of the study, they showed significant reductions in depression and loneliness compared to the control group. However, even the increased awareness of their social media use appeared to help the control group lower feelings of anxiety and fear of missing out.

“Remember, it’s okay to turn your phone off. It’s okay to turn notifications off for news, apps, and emails,” says McKinley. Take opportunities to step outside, spend time with loved ones, and explore screen-free self-care activities. She adds, “Most of the things in life that make life worthwhile cannot be found on our devices, apps, or through technology—it’s found within ourselves and each other.”

Kaiser Family Foundation. The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use .

Taquet M, Luciano S, Geddes JR, Harrison PJ. Bidirectional associations between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorder: retrospective cohort studies of 62 354 COVID-19 cases in the USA . Lancet Psychiatry . 2021;8(2):130-140. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30462-4

Luo C, Sanger N, Singhal N, et al. A comparison of electronically-delivered and face to face cognitive behavioural therapies in depressive disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis . EClinicalMedicine . 2020;24:100442. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100442

Primack BA, Karim SA, Shensa A, Bowman N, Knight J, Sidani JE. Positive and negative experiences on social media and perceived social isolation . Am J Health Promot . 2019;33(6):859-868. doi:10.1177/0890117118824196

Hunt MG, Marx R, Lipson C, Young J. No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression . J Soc Clin Psychol . 2018;37(10):751-768. doi:10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751

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A plurality of experts say digital life will continue to expand people’s boundaries and opportunities in the coming decade and that the world to come will produce more help than harm in people’s lives. Still, nearly a third think that digital life will be mostly harmful to people’s health, mental fitness and happiness. Most say there are solutions

Table of contents.

  • 1. The state of play for technology and looming changes
  • 2. Hopes for the future of the digital life
  • 3. Concerns about the future of people’s well-being
  • 4. Intervention ideas to ease problems
  • 5. Key experts’ thinking about digital life and individuals’ well-being in the next decade
  • About this canvassing of experts
  • Acknowledgments

More than a quarter of Americans have chosen to not post something online after seeing harassment of others

When the Pew Research Center asks American internet users for their bottom-line judgment about the role of digital technology in their own lives, the vast majority feel it is a good thing .

Yet, over the past 18 months a drumbeat of concerns about the personal and societal impacts of technology has been growing – and it crescendoed last week in the congressional grilling of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about his company’s power and impact on American life. More broadly the concerns are highlighted by headlines about the “ Heavy Toll of ‘Always On’ Technology ,” the emergence of a “ techlash ” driven by people’s disillusionment with the online environment, and worries over digital dystopia. There has also been commentary and research about the effects digital technology usage can have on people’s well-being, their level of stress, their likelihood of committing suicide , their ability to perform well at work and in social settings, their capability to focus in an era of information overload , their capacity to modulate their level of connectivity , and their overall happiness.

In light of these mounting concerns, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center queried technology experts, scholars and health specialists on this question: Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally?

Humans need tools. Humans need and want augmentation. And as the saying goes ‘First we make our tools, then our tools form us.’ Paul Jones

Some 1,150 experts responded in this non-scientific canvassing. Some 47% of these respondents predict that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade, while 32% say people’s well-being will be more harmed than helped. The remaining 21% predict there will not be much change in people’s well-being compared to now. (See the section titled “ About this canvassing of experts ” for further details about who these experts are and the structure of this canvassing sample.)

Many of those who argue that human well-being will be harmed also acknowledge that digital tools will continue to enhance various aspects of life. They also note there is no turning back. At the same time, hundreds of them suggested interventions in the coming years they feel could mitigate the problems and emphasize the benefits. Moreover, many of the hopeful respondents also agree that some harm will arise in the future, especially to those who are vulnerable.

Participants were asked to explain their answers, and most wrote detailed elaborations that provide insights about hopeful and concerning trends. They were allowed to respond anonymously and many did so; their written comments are also included in this report.

Three types of themes emerged: those tied to expert views that people will be more helped than harmed when it comes to well-being; those tied to potential harms; and those tied to remedies these experts proposed to mitigate foreseeable problems. The themes are outlined in the nearby table.

[chart id=”19960″]

These findings do not represent all the points of view that are possible in responding to a question like this, but they do reveal a wide range of valuable observations based on current trends. Here are some representative quotes from these experts on each of these themes.

The benefits of digital life

Connection: Daniel Weitzner , principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative, explained, “Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Whether on questions of politics, community affairs, science, education, romance or economic life, the internet does connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships. … I have to feel confident that we can continue to gain fulfillment from these human connections.”

Commerce, government and society: Pete Cranston , a Europe-based trainer and consultant on digital technology and software applications, wrote, “There’s a top-1%, first-world response, which is to bemoan the impact of hyperconnectedness on things like social interaction, attention span, trolling and fake news – all of which are real but, like complaining about the marzipan being too thick on the Christmas cake, are problems that come with plenty and surplus. There’s a rest-of-the-world response which focuses more on the massive benefits to life from access to finance, to online shopping, to limitless, free research opportunities, to keeping in touch with loved ones in far-away places (and think migrant workers rather than gap-year youth).”

Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Daniel Weitzner

Crucial intelligence: Micah Altman , director of research and head scientist for the program on information science at MIT, said, “Most of the gains in human well-being (economic, health, longevity, life-satisfaction and a range of choices) over the last century and a half have come from advances in technology that are the long-term results of scientific advances. However, these gains have not been distributed equitably, even in democracies. Many advances from the fields of computer science, information science, statistics and computational social science are just beginning to be realized in today’s technology – and there remains a huge potential for long-term improvement. Further, since information is a non-consumptive good, it lends itself to broad and potentially more equitable distribution. For example, the relatively recent trends towards openness in scientific publication, scientific data and educational resources are likely to make people across the world better off – in the short term, by expanding individuals’ access to a broad set of useful information; in the medium term, by decreasing barriers to education (especially higher-ed); and in the long term by enhancing scientific progress.”

Contentment: Stephen Downes , a senior research officer at the National Research Council Canada, commented, “The internet will help rather than harm people’s well-being because it breaks down barriers and supports them in their ambitions and objectives. We see a lot of disruption today caused by this feature, as individuals and companies act out a number of their less desirable ambitions and objectives. Racism, intolerance, greed and criminality have always lurked beneath the surface, and it is no surprise to see them surface. But the vast majority of human ambitions and objectives are far more noble: people desire to educate themselves, people desire to communicate with others, people desire to share their experiences, people desire to create networks of enterprise, commerce and culture. All these are supported by digital technologies, and while they may not be as visible and disruptive as the less-desirable objectives, they are just as real and far more massive.”

Continuation toward quality : Paul Jones , professor of information science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, proposes that future artificial intelligence (AI) will do well at enhancing human well-being, writing, “Humans need tools. Humans need and want augmentation. And as the saying goes ‘First we make our tools, then our tools form us.’ Since the first protohuman, this has been true. But soon our tools will want, demand and create tools for their own use. The alienation of the industrial age has already given up the center stage to the twisted social psychology of the service industry. Next, will our tool-created overlords be more gentle and kind than the textile factory, the sewing room or the call center? I believe they will be.”

Concerns over harms

Digital deficits: Nicholas Carr , well-known author of numerous books and articles on technology and culture, wrote, “We now have a substantial body of empirical and experiential evidence on the personal effects of the internet, social media and smartphones. The news is not good. While there are certainly people who benefit from connectedness – those who have suffered social or physical isolation in the past, for instance – the evidence makes clear that, in general, the kind of constant, intrusive connectedness that now characterizes people’s lives has harmful cognitive and emotional consequences. Among other things, the research reveals a strong association, and likely a causal one, between heavy phone and internet use and losses of analytical and problem-solving skill, memory formation, contextual thinking, conversational depth and empathy as well as increases in anxiety.”

Digital addiction: David S.H. Rosenthal , retired chief scientist of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University, said, “The digital economy is based upon competition to consume humans’ attention. This competition has existed for a long time (see Tim Wu’s ‘The Attention Merchants’), but the current generation of tools for consuming attention is far more effective than previous generations. Economies of scale and network effects have placed control of these tools in a very small number of exceptionally powerful companies. These companies are driven by the need to consume more and more of the available attention to maximize profit. This is already having malign effects on society (see the 2016 presidential election). Even if these companies wanted to empower less-malign effects, they have no idea how to, and doing so would certainly impair their bottom line. Thus these companies will consume more and more of the available attention by delivering whatever they can find to grab and hold attention. The most effective way to do this is to create fear in the reader, driving the trust level in society down (see Robert Putnam’s ‘Making Democracy Work’ for the ills of a low-trust society).”

Keeping people in a continual state of anxiety, anger, fear, or just haunted by an inescapable, nagging sense that everyone else is better off than they are can be very profitable. Judith Donath

Digital distrust/divisiveness: Judith Donath , author of “The Social Machine, Designs for Living Online,” commented, “If your objective is to get people to buy more stuff, you do not want a population of people who look at what they have and at the friends and family surrounding them, and think to themselves ‘life is good, I appreciate what I have, and what I have is enough.’ If your goal is to manipulate people, to keep a population anxious and fearful so that they will seek a powerful, authoritarian leader – you will not want technologies and products that provide people with a strong sense of calm and well-being. Keeping people in a continual state of anxiety, anger, fear, or just haunted by an inescapable, nagging sense that everyone else is better off than they are can be very profitable. In short, the individual researchers and developers may be motivated by a sincere desire to advance understanding of mood, cognition, etc., or to create technologies that nudge or control our responses for our own good, but the actual implementation of these techniques and devices is likely to be quite different – to be used to reduce well-being because a population in a state of fear and anxiety is a far more malleable and profitable population.”

Digital dangers: Tiziana Dearing , a professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, said, “People’s well-being will be affected for the worse by digital technology for three reasons. 1) Because we have evolved as interpersonal, social creatures and therefore are unable to adapt to the behaviors, needs, even maybe the wiring required to thrive socioemotionally and physically in a digital world at the pace that digital change will require. 2) Because digital technology – from design to algorithms – has evolved without sufficient consideration of social empathy and inherent bias. 3) Because we have not figured out how to mitigate the ability that certain forms of technology have created to be our worst selves with each other. Don’t get me wrong. Technological developments hold tremendous potential to cure disease, solve massive human problems, level the information playing field, etc. But our ability to adapt at a species level happens on a much slower cycle, and our human behaviors get in the way.”

Intervention ideas to ease problems

[these tools]

Regulate: Dana Chisnell , co-director of the Center for Civic Design, wrote, “There are dozens of projects happening to try to make the internet a better place, but it’s an arms race. As individuals find tools for coping and managing their digital lives, technology companies will find new, invasive ways to exploit data generated on the internet in social media. And there will be more threats from more kinds of bad actors. Security and privacy will become a larger concern and people will feel more powerless in the face of technology that they don’t or can’t control. And it will take many years to understand how to negotiate that race and come to some kind of detente.”

People are adaptive. In the long run, we are reasonable, too. We will learn how to reign in the pitfalls, threats, bad guys and ill-meaning uses. These will continue to show up, but the march is towards progress. Sheizaf Rafaeli

Redesign media literacy: Alex Halavais , director of the M.A. in social technologies program at Arizona State University, said, “The primary change needs to come in education. From a very early age, people need to understand how to interact with networked, digital technologies. They need to learn how to use social media, and learn how not to be used by it. They need to understand how to assemble reliable information and how to detect crap. They need to be able to shape the media they are immersed in. They need to be aware of how algorithms and marketing – and the companies, governments, and other organizations that produce them – help to shape the ways in which they see the world. Unfortunately, from preschool to grad school, there isn’t a lot of consensus about how this is to be achieved.”

Recalibrate expectations: Sheizaf Rafaeli , a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, wrote, “People are adaptive. In the long run, we are reasonable, too. We will learn how to reign in the pitfalls, threats, bad guys and ill-meaning uses. These will continue to show up, but the march is towards progress. Better, more meaningful lives. Healthier, more-supportive environments. It is a learning process, and some of us, sometimes, get an ‘F’ here or there. But we learn. And with digital tech, we learn faster. We converse and communicate and acknowledge each other like never before. And that is always a good start. Bad things, like greed, hate, violence, oppression will not be eradicated. But the digital is already carrying, delivering and instantiating much promise. This is not rosy-colored utopian wishful thinking. It is a realistic take on the net effects. I would rather trade places with my grandkids than with my grandparents.”

Fated to fail: Douglas Massey , a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, responded to say that interventions are not likely to be possible. He wrote, “I am not very optimistic that democratically elected governments will be able to regulate the internet and social media in ways that benefit the many rather than the few, given the vast amounts of money and power that are at stake and outside the control of any single government, and intergovernmental organizations are too weak at this point to have any hope of influence. The Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality is certainly not a good sign.”

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How Does Technology Affect Mental Health? Essay Example

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📌Words: 1268
📌Pages: 5
📌Published: 20 April 2022

Did you know that there are over 3.36 Billion Active smartphones around the world!  Over the past few decades technology has evolved to be something so much greater than what we come to realize. We use technology every single day of our lives in some way or another whether it is to communicate, for work, school, or social media. Americans tend to believe that technology such as phones has bad effects on us; varying from mental and physical behaviors and mental. I agree with this statement. This leads us to beg the question of, do smartphones degrade our minds like we think they do? Research around the world says that they do, but some say it does not. Mental behaviors such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness are all factors of phones and with further aid, we will find out how and why this happens.

To begin, Technology is very useful to us humans and has become very important to our world; however, what it does to our brains is a different story, relating to the research question. In the article Impact of smartphone addiction on depression and self-esteem among nursing students written by Mahamed Sayeda, a researcher in mental health at Cairo University as well as others conducted explaining the effects of smartphones. According to Mohamed Sayeda, “Smartphone addicted people tend to feel depressed and isolated without their smartphones; besides, they can experience other symptoms of addiction such as preoccupation, tolerance, lack of control, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, lies, excessive use, and loss of interest. Depression and low self-esteem are general reflections of psychological well-being”( Sayeda 1347). In other words, Mohamed believes that Smartphones cause Addiction which then leads to depression. Concurring with what Mohamed makes a connection to addiction and depression in smartphones is reasonable. When you are addicted to something and lose that thing you are addicted to you tend to get sad and then depressed. On the topic of depression, that’s pretty mind degrading if you ask me. 

Continuing, Smartphones have an instrumental effect on people of all ages. Especially college students. College students are more than likely to use their phones more than anybody, especially nowadays. People have become more reliant on phones than ever. Mohamed agrees in his study when he writes “In this study, there was a positive correlation between smartphone addiction and depression”( Sayeda 1351). Mohamed’s point is that phones can cause depression and will. The evidence listed backs the Research question. With depression being high among teens and college students in these recent years phones contribute to it. Nowadays because people are so attached to their phones Sayeda says “While the physical consequences of the overuse of smartphones can be easily diagnosed and managed, mental health issues are statistically significant concerns with smartphone overuse” (Sayeda 1347).  Sayeda brings up a  great point about how physical phones don’t harm us as much but mentally it’s a different story. Technology will continue to affect us until we limit our screen times and overall usage of it. Spending an abundance of time on smartphones and technology can also lead to other mental issues.

As a result of this, another way technology is affecting us is anxiety. Anxiety can come in many forms nevertheless it should never be looked over. Technology has its problems and anxiety is one of them. Nicholas Carr, a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes articles on technology, wrote the article How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds explaining how smartphones have taken over the human body in a bad way. Nicholas complicates the matter further when he writes “But while our phones offer convenience and diversion, they also breed anxiety. Their extraordinary usefulness gives them an unprecedented hold on our attention and vast influence over our thinking and behavior”(Carr 598). Carr is warning that because phones have taken over the world they have also overtaken our emotions. This directly affects our daily lives for the reason that phones are everywhere. A single buzz from your phone will get your heart rate racing and if you can't immediately look at the reason why it buzzed it makes the anxiety even worse. Carr relates by saying “even hearing one ring or vibrate, produces a welter of distractions that makes it harder to concentrate on a difficult problem or job”(598). Carr’s point specifically is that smartphone use every day brings an unprecedented amount of stress and anxiety and overall affects us daily. Having constant anxiety will regress your mind and lead to other issues such as loneliness.

Furthermore, Loneliness is a factor of technology as well. Being infatuated with a screen all day will affect your social life. It makes it easier to deny someone from hanging out and creating short condensed conversions with no meaning. As you can see technology really does hurt your mind. Carr advances on how technology hinders us by saying “Social skills and relationships seem to suffer as well. Because smartphones serve as constant reminders of all the friends we could be chatting with electronically, they pull at our minds when we’re talking with people in person, leaving our conversations shallower and less satisfying”(Carr 601).  Moore is establishing that because we are so involved with our phones and being faced down into the fabricated world we tend to be less empathetic and lacking in social life. I completely agree since this happens all the time. We see kids and adults nowadays becoming more and more antisocial and lonely due to the constant reliance on technology. This isn’t good in the long run for Humans. It will create less communication and will allow us to further distance ourselves from others. Humans are social creatures and need constant interaction. “lol” as well as “idk” don't count as interactions in my book. Despite all this, there are still people out there who will disagree with the idea that technology degrades our mental state. Carr Brings up an excellent point when he says “The evidence that our phones can get inside our heads so forcefully is unsettling. It suggests that our thoughts and feelings, far from being sequestered in our skulls, can be skewed by external forces we’re not even aware of”(Carr 601-602). Carr puts it perfectly by describing an underlying issue with phones and technology by saying that our phones hinder our ability to process information and we are not aware of it. This is crazy because this means that not only is it making our mental state weaker, it's making our way of processing information much worse.   

Moreover, People believe that there are merits and benefits to technology. Nicholas Brody a professor of communications at the University of Puget sound corresponds with this in his article It Turns Out Our Tech Gadgets Aren’t as Isolating as Experts Say. He presumes that this is true. Nicholas writes “The truth of the matter is that social media and smartphones never drove us away from one another. Rather, these tools highlight the most fundamental need of all to be connected”( Brody 594).  By focusing just on being connected Nicholas overlooks the fact that being connected isn't just the problem. Yes, you can be connected but it doesn't solve depression, anxiety. For example, someone posts on social media and it show them living a happy life and you see it and it makes you jealous and sad realizing that you are not like them. To sum up, it's not just being connected there is plenty of other factors. 

In addition to this, Near the end of Nicholas's article, he says “Expressing affection helps us better deal with stress”(Brody 594). I disagree with Nicholas’s view that affection reduces stress because studies have shown that expressing affection online does not parallel in-person affection. Therefore Nicholas’s claim is false.  

To conclude, You may be asking yourself, if technology is so bad then why has it helped the world so much? This is because you only see the good side of it. There are millions of people that are having problems related to technology. These include depression, anxiety, and loneliness. So going back to the research question of whether phones degrade our minds. I can strongly say yes. Technology affects us exponentially in bad ways. Are you gonna let this happen to your mind?

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Is technology affecting our health?

Murphy, Kathryn DNSc, NP

Kathryn Murphy is a Faculty Member at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., and a Nursing made Incredibly Easy! Editorial Board Member.

The author and planners have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Smart devices can make our professional and personal lives easier and more enjoyable, but along with the positives may come some downsides.

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Technology is everywhere. You can't travel on a plane, walk down the street, or visit with family without technology being there in some form. We have devices for communicating, listening to music, and reading. Some of us have smart homes that respond to our commands. Many of us have video game systems, healthcare apps, and digital learning tools. Almost every aspect of life now has technology associated with it.

People are often so engrossed with this technology that they forget to live in the real world, not the virtual world. Social media sites alone are an increasing presence. Eighty-seven percent of millennials state that their smartphone never leaves their side, with 80% checking their smartphone first thing in the morning and 88% using the camera on their smartphone weekly.

The use of technology can affect both our physical and mental health. Some of these effects are transient, whereas others may be permanent. On the positive side, technology can assist with learning, help people with disabilities, and make daily work tasks and chores more efficient (see Nurses' exposure to technology in the work setting ). Generally, more research is needed to thoroughly assess the positive and negative effects of technology on health.

Because nurses are often patients' first contact in the healthcare arena, we can be pivotal in assessing the effects of technology on a person's health as part of our health assessment. Along with assessment, we must also educate our patients on the importance of balance when using technology.

Physical health effects

Physically, individuals are at risk for a sedentary lifestyle and may experience sleep problems, eyestrain, hearing loss, neck/back strain, and “text thumb.”

  • Sedentary lifestyle

Technology can make our lives more efficient, but it can also encourage a sedentary lifestyle. A person who works at a computer all day and then goes home to use some form of technology for entertainment is especially at risk. The longer a person sits in front of a TV or video game, the more likely he or she will die at a younger age. Walking, running, swimming, or games that involve the body such as volleyball and tennis can help balance the negative effects of extended technology use. However, even when sedentary, one study demonstrated that fidgeting can counteract some of the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. In fact, there was no increased risk of mortality with the use of technology if one fidgets while sitting.

In our role as educators, we can encourage our patients to move often while sitting by bending over, moving their legs and arms, or working in a standing position. Also recommend that for each hour of technology use, your patient takes 1 hour to do an alternative activity.

  • Sleep problems

Electronic book readers have light-emitting diodes that transmit blue wavelength light. Prolonged exposure to blue lights can cause eyestrain and fatigue. It can also interfere with sleep patterns. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light can suppress levels of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep and allows for increased alertness the following morning. Exposure to blue light also reduces the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the form of sleep in which dreams occur. REM sleep aids memory consolidation and transmissions between neuronal networks in the brain, allowing the brain to function more effectively.

Sleep deprivation can also be caused by the anxiety created about missing a call or text, staying up later to use devices, and interruptions in sleep due to calls and texts. To counteract these effects, teach your patients about proper sleep hygiene, including limiting the use of light-emitting devices or smartphones close to bedtime.

  • Vision problems

Close computer work can cause dry eyes, light sensitivity, double vision, fatigue, and headaches. Additionally, handheld devices demand that users position themselves close to the equipment. This can result in increased use of eye muscles to focus, which leads to more strain. According to a survey conducted by the Vision Council, 70% of adults have experienced some symptoms of eyestrain from digital device usage, including using small cellphone screens to watch videos and movies. Blue wavelength light can penetrate deep into the eye and damage retinal cells. This accumulative damage may contribute to macular degeneration. It's particularly important to balance the use of technology in children to decrease the risk of nearsightedness.

On the other hand, technology is being developed to correct vision problems. Engineers have created a prototype tablet display that can compensate for a person's vision loss. A team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an algorithm that adjusts the intensity of light from single computer pixels based on the user's specific visual impediment. This research is in the early stages and may be useful for patients with unusual vision alterations.

Teach your patients how to decrease eyestrain, such as using the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. Encourage patients to change the background color of their devices from bright white to cool gray. They should adjust the screen so that it's directly in front of their face and slightly below eye level, and position their body so that there's sufficient distance from their eyes to the screen (about one arm's length away). Finally, they should blink more often to lubricate their eyes.

  • Hearing problems

Teenagers and young adults are most at risk for hearing loss from the use of earbuds or headphones in conjunction with personal audio devices. Studies indicate that almost 50% of individuals age 12 to 25 are exposed to unsafe levels of sound while using personal audio devices. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe sound levels can occur with an exposure to an excess of 85 decibels for 8 hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes. The WHO recommends that the highest level of noise exposure in a workplace is 85 decibels for up to a maximum of 8 hours. So if a person finishes work and then goes home and listens to a personal audio device, he or she may unknowingly move into unsafe levels. Today, there are smartphone apps to assist with monitoring safe listening levels and adjusting use accordingly.

Ask your patients about occupational exposure to noise. Teach them to prevent hearing loss by limiting the amount of time they use personal audio devices, keeping the volume down on the device, and using noise cancelling earbuds or headphones.

  • Neck/back strain

The use of smartphones, computers, tablets, and other devices can contribute to severe neck strain. When a person's neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine is increased. The effect is like hyperextending a finger and holding it there for an hour. As the tissue stretches for a long period of time, it can get inflamed and damage may occur. Neck strain can also contribute to headaches and back strain. The use of devices causes our necks to bend more frequently. Overtime, this poor posture can lead to early degeneration of the spine.

Encourage your patients to avoid neck strain by looking down at a smartphone without bending their neck. Also, the use of periodic neck range-of-motion exercises can assist with decreasing strain. Lastly, limiting the amount of time using these devices can help.

The repetitive gripping motions used while texting or video gaming results in constriction of the flexor tendon in the thumb. This can cause painful snapping when the thumb goes through the range of motion. The thumb may also lock in a curled position. Text thumb results in inflammation in the tendons and the synovial sheath that protects it. Repetitive motions can lead to a painful, weakened grip and degeneration, causing permanent tendon damage. Researchers in Turkey found that the more a person texts, the greater the thickness of the tendons, resulting in more pain and weakness of grip.

Other joints may be affected by the prolonged use of technology. Too much time holding a cellphone to the ear, resting elbows on a desk, or keeping arms bent in an acute angle can contribute to cubital tunnel syndrome or increased tension in the tunnel through which the ulnar nerve passes in the elbow. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the hand or fingers and soreness of the elbow or forearm.

Teach your patients to change positions frequently, use both hands to limit the burden on one appendage, take time between texts and resting their arms on a table, and incorporate bluetooth technology to decrease time holding a phone to prevent these health problems.

Mental health effects

Mentally, technology can shorten attention spans, contribute to increased anxiety and narcissism, decrease capacity for emotional intelligence, and lessen solitary time.

  • Memory changes

At the cellular level, the communication networks between nerve cells in the brain change in response to experiences and stimuli. It's the strength and efficiency of these networks that allow the brain to be successful in processing and storing information. The use of screen-based devices can produce changes in nerve cell behavior. Attention spans are shorter, personal communication skills are reduced, and the ability to think abstractly is decreased.

As information expands, attention spans decrease. A study comparing students in Singapore and the United States showed that Singaporean students spent an average of 1 hour trying to solve an advanced math problem, whereas American students spent a total of 34 seconds before giving up on it. The speed of technology may be decreasing the skill of waiting or frustration tolerance when things don't go as planned.

In one UCLA study, experienced web users displayed fundamentally different neural structures in the prefrontal cortex. When Internet use or gaming becomes excessive, studies indicate atrophy in the frontal lobe where executive functions, such as planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control, occur. There may also be damage in the insula—the part of the brain that involves the capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others. And volume loss of gray matter has been seen in the striatum, which is involved in the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses.

In contrast, a 2009 UCLA study demonstrated that engaging in Internet searches actually increase brain activity. Specifically, using the Internet stimulates neuronal circuitry more than reading a book. This may be due to the use of interactive websites.

Multitasking, such as checking e-mails while in a meeting, is common in today's world. Technology can falsely convince a person that multitasking is effective and efficient. Yet, research demonstrates that the opposite is true. Most of the time, the brain can't perform two complex tasks, such as listening to a lecture and texting, at once. Each of these tasks demands the attention of the prefrontal cortex at the same time. This results in less proficiency as the person loses time being distracted and experiences more mental fatigue.

Multitaskers find it more difficult to filter out extraneous information than those who perform one task at a time. They also take longer to juggle problems and switch tasks, and spend more wasted time looking for information. In addition, a person's memory of what's being learned may be impaired if his or her attention is split and the depth of information processing may be less because of the distraction of multitasking.

This finding is also true in children. However, a recent study found that as attention spans decreased, visual reasoning skills increased. Children raised with technology from an early age were able to understand complex visual images and increase the focus on details in the images. They also developed better hand-eye coordination. In the classroom, technology can assist learning with programs that offer rewards for success, assistive devices for student with disabilities, and web searches to investigate a topic.

  • Emotional instability

Who we are and how we feel about ourselves is now being tied to social media sites that have continual updates of personal status. The majority of the postings are positive, with emotional contagion dispersing happiness through cyberspace. Yet, some studies have shown that exposure to positive posts can actually produce envy and reduce well-being in some individuals. Whether a social media post elicits a positive or negative response may relate to the actual relationship between the person who posts and the individual who views the post. In other words, close friends in the real world and not just on social media more often view the post as positive. In addition, some people may use the feeling of envy to strive to improve their own life, whereas others may react with low self-esteem.

Recent studies have focused on how prolonged Internet use may actually increase feelings of well-being through the building of social relationships and participating in a virtual community. This is true particularly for shy individuals who are less likely to form social relationships and more apt to conceal information about themselves. These individuals may be less threatened when engaging in virtual relationships. In return, this participation can increase the person's sense of well-being and provide a new forum for interaction.

Teens, in particular, are more sensitive to the approval of others on social media. Cyberbullying is prevalent, with over half of teens either participating in bullying or victims of bullying. Examples of cyberbullying include spreading rumors online, circulating unattractive images of another teen online, texting unkind messages about another teen, and pretending to be someone else online to hurt another teen. Cyberbullying can be very upsetting to an adolescent and may lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide. Crucial to the effect of cyberbullying is the fact that once something is posted online, it never really goes away and can resurface later in a person's life.

Counsel parents on talking to their teens about bullying, having the computer in a central location, and limiting the time their teens spent on social media sites.

Keep in mind that adults aren't immune to cyberbullying either; peers in the work setting may be targets. Employees with knowledge of cyberbullying should alert management to ensure that the work environment remains positive.

  • Emotional intelligence changes

Our increased use of technology may lead to a decrease in emotional intelligence. Empathy levels among college students have decreased by 40% over the last 10 years. As the world presents more options through the Internet, long-term commitment decreases. Just look at how often we change channels on the TV or on our personal audio device to get to a better choice. The Pew Research Center indicates that millennials prefer digital rather than in-person interaction. Forty percent state that they often substitute texting, video chats, and e-mail for actually meeting up with friends for social interaction. This may decrease the ability to use eye contact, listen to others, and interact face-to-face.

Reality TV, daily social media posts, and personal blogs all focus on an individual and what he or she is doing or saying. This externalization of a person's identity can result in an increase in narcissism—a personality trait associated with self-absorption, egocentrism, overestimation of one's abilities, a sense of entitlement, and a disregard for others. Social media sites promote sharing trivial parts of one's life and gaining attention from this sharing. Moreover, the amount of time spent using social media reduces face-to-face interactions, which assist people to develop essential social skills, such as empathy, compassion, and concern for others.

With technology focused on personal needs and self-expression, there may be less time to form real-time relationships. People can invent who they want to be online rather than present who they really are. On the other hand, social media can assist people to meet in person. Numerous dating sites help people find others who share common values and interests.

Help patients strive for a balance of technology and interpersonal dialogue and empathy. Encourage face-to-face interaction, mindfulness and relaxation practices, and unplugging from technology to help increase emotional intelligence.

  • Loss of solitary time

Interaction with technology is creeping into the solitary time we need to decompress and “reboot.” Just as we need sleep to rest and process the day's events, we need solitary time to strengthen our inner selves. Having one's self-esteem based on social media makes us more dependent on others for approval. Being connected 24/7 doesn't really allow for alone time and can cause hyperarousal.

Private time allows for reflection and creativity; our muscles relax, energy is stored, food is metabolized, our pupils constrict to reduce stimuli, and our heart rate and BP slow. During this time, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released, which increases blood flow and alertness in the prefrontal cortex to help the brain process information more effectively. Not only is alone time important to creativity, it's also crucial to self-esteem and emotions. By allowing time to self-sooth and be alone, we can learn to manage emotions and find solutions within.

Can we get addicted?

When technology use becomes an addiction, there can be both social and cognitive changes that alter the person's life. Engaging in some technologic activities can create an increase in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate emotional responses, producing a feeling of enjoyment. When the person stops engaging in the activity, he or she needs another “fix” to get a release of dopamine. For this reason, the person continues to increase the use of the technology to ensure a feeling of pleasure. Research has shown that prolonged Internet use can decrease the number of dopamine transporters, which results in more available dopamine, thus increasing euphoria.

Although Internet addiction isn't a formal psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition , it's listed as a condition for further research to possibly be included in the next version of the manual. Symptoms of Internet addiction include a preoccupation with Internet games or activities, withdrawal symptoms when not engaging in these activities, attempts to stop engaging in these activities, lying to others about the amount of Internet usage, interference with a person's activities of daily life such as work or relationships, and using the activities to relieve anxiety. One study found that social anxiety increases when individuals are addicted to the Internet. Most of these symptoms also occur with other addictive disorders; treatment for Internet addiction may include those that are therapeutic for other addictions.

Assess your patients for signs of distress or risk of Internet addiction (see Technology use screening ). Establishing contacts for crisis intervention and treatment are important if a problem is found.

Keeping our eyes on it

As nurses, we play an important role in assessment and intervention. With the increasing use of technology, it's important to incorporate the patient's use of technology in the health assessment. First, finding out how much technology influences a patient's life can help you assist him or her to achieve a more balanced, healthy lifestyle. Include questions about what devices are utilized, how often they're used, and the effect on the patient's everyday life. If you note either physical or psychological symptoms, plan for education or intervention as needed. Through assessment and education, we can help ensure that our patients strike a balance between technology use and time spent engaging in other activities.

Nurses' exposure to technology in the work setting

It isn't just our patients who are at risk for the adverse effects of technology overuse; nurses are exposed to a variety of smart devices in the workplace and noise can reach dangerous levels.

For example, hospitals are increasingly utilizing virtual remote assessments via video feed to interact with the patient and healthcare team. And clinical nurses are often provided with a cellular-link device that pages their phone directly when a patient pushes the call light.

To avoid distractions that may negatively affect patient safety, stay away from using personal cellular or other devices during work hours. If noise is a problem at your facility, exposure can be monitored by implementing a noise stoplight, which signals green when the decibel level is low and red when it's too high.

did you know?

Older patients and technology

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Pew Research Center data show that the number of older adults using the Internet has grown, with more than half of Americans over age 65 using it on a daily basis. Older people can benefit from the stimulation of neurons that occurs with technology. However, the complexity of technologic devices can cause undue anxiety in some older individuals.

The best way to help your older patients with technology is to teach them basic steps. Sitting down for a one-on-one training session and allowing return demonstrations will increase device operating success and decrease anxiety. Also, positive reinforcement for small accomplishments helps older patients fell less inept and more confident about not only using the device, but asking questions later about other features.

How technology affects health

Cheat sheet.

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Signs of Internet addiction

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  • Preoccupation with Internet games or activities
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not engaging in Internet activities
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop these activities
  • Lying to others about the amount of Internet usage
  • Interference with work and/or relationships
  • Consistently using the Internet to relieve anxiety

Technology use screening

Ask your patients the following questions:

  • How many hours a day do you use a computer, TV, smartphone, tablet, or video game system?
  • Have you lost sleep from using your device(s)?
  • How often do you have neck pain or tightness after using technology?
  • How often do you have thumb pain after using technology?
  • How often do you experience dry eyes or eye strain after using technology?
  • Have you felt sad when using or after using social media sites?
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Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

What Makes Technology Good or Bad for Us?

Everyone’s worried about smartphones. Headlines like “ Have smartphones destroyed a generation? ” and “ Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain ” paint a bleak picture of our smartphone addiction and its long-term consequences. This isn’t a new lament—public opinion at the advent of the newspaper worried that people would forego the stimulating pleasures of early-morning conversation in favor of reading the daily .

Is the story of technology really that bad? Certainly there’s some reason to worry. Smartphone use has been linked to serious issues, such as dwindling attention spans , crippling depression , and even increased incidence of brain cancer . Ultimately, though, the same concern comes up again and again: Smartphones can’t be good for us, because they’re replacing the real human connection of the good old days.

Everyone’s heard how today’s teens just sit together in a room, texting, instead of actually talking to each other. But could those teenagers actually be getting something meaningful and real out of all that texting?

The science of connection

essay on how technology affect our health

A quick glance at the research on technology-mediated interaction reveals an ambivalent literature. Some studies show that time spent socializing online can decrease loneliness , increase well-being , and help the socially anxious learn how to connect to others. Other studies suggest that time spent socializing online can cause loneliness , decrease well-being , and foster a crippling dependence on technology-mediated interaction to the point that users prefer it to face-to-face conversation.

It’s tempting to say that some of these studies must be right and others wrong, but the body of evidence on both sides is a little too robust to be swept under the rug. Instead, the impact of social technology is more complicated. Sometimes, superficially similar behaviors have fundamentally different consequences. Sometimes online socialization is good for you, sometimes it’s bad, and the devil is entirely in the details.

This isn’t a novel proposition; after all, conflicting results started appearing within the first few studies into the internet’s social implications, back in the 1990s. Many people have suggested that to understand the consequences of online socialization, we need to dig deeper into situational factors and circumstances. But what we still have to do is move beyond recognition of the problem to provide an answer: When, how, and why are some online interactions great, while others are dangerous?

The interpersonal connection behaviors framework

As a scientist of close relationships, I can’t help but see online interactions differently from thinkers in other fields. People build relationships by demonstrating their understanding of each other’s needs and perspectives, a cyclical process that brings them closer together. If I tell you my secrets, and you respond supportively, I’m much more likely to confide in you again—and you, in turn, are much more likely to confide in me.

This means that every time two people talk to each other, an opportunity for relationship growth is unfolding. Many times, that opportunity isn’t taken; we aren’t about to have an in-depth conversation with the barista who asks for our order. But connection is always theoretically possible, and that’s true whether we’re interacting online or face-to-face.

Close relationships are the bread and butter of happiness—and even health. Being socially isolated is a stronger predictor of mortality than is smoking multiple cigarettes a day . If we want to understand the role technology plays in our well-being, we need to start with the role it plays in our relationships.

And it turns out that the kind of technology-mediated interactions that lead to positive outcomes are exactly those that are likely to build stronger relationships. Spending your time online by scheduling interactions with people you see day in and day out seems to pay dividends in increased social integration . Using the internet to compensate for being lonely just makes you lonelier; using the internet to actively seek out connection has the opposite effect .

“The kind of technology-mediated interactions that lead to positive outcomes are exactly those that are likely to build stronger relationships”

On the other hand, technology-mediated interactions that don’t really address our close relationships don’t seem to do us any good—and might, in fact, do us harm. Passively scrolling through your Facebook feed without interacting with people has been linked to decreased well-being and increased depression post-Facebook use.

That kind of passive usage is a good example of “ social snacking .” Like eating junk food, social snacking can temporarily satisfy you, but it’s lacking in nutritional content. Looking at your friends’ posts without ever responding might make you feel more connected to them, but it doesn’t build intimacy.

Passive engagement has a second downside, as well: social comparison . When we compare our messy lived experiences to others’ curated self-presentations, we are likely to suffer from lowered self-esteem , happiness, and well-being. This effect is only exacerbated when we consume people’s digital lives without interacting with them, making it all too easy to miss the less photogenic moments of their lives.

Moving forward

The interpersonal connection behaviors framework doesn’t explain everything that might influence our well-being after spending time on social media. The internet poses plenty of other dangers—for two examples, the sense of wasting time or emotional contagion from negative news. However, a focus on meaningful social interaction can help explain decades of contradictory findings. And even if the framework itself is challenged by future work, its central concept is bound to be upheld: We have to study the details of how people are spending their time online if we want to understand its likely effects.

In the meantime, this framework has some practical implications for those worried about their own online time. If you make sure you’re using social media for genuinely social purposes, with conscious thought about how it can improve your life and your relationships, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy your digital existence.

This article was originally published on the Behavioral Scientist . Read the original article .

About the Author

Headshot of Jenna Clark

Jenna Clark

Jenna Clark, Ph.D. , is a senior behavioral researcher at Duke University's Center for Advanced Hindsight, where she works to help people make healthy decisions in spite of themselves. She's also interested in how technology contributes to our well-being through its effect on our close personal relationships.

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The Impact of Technology on Mental Health

In the contemporary world, symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental disorders have become more prevalent among university students. Researchers have proven that time spent on social media, videos, and Instant messaging is directly associated with psychological distress. This bibliography examines different literature discussing how technology affects mental wellness.

The scope of this research is to uncover the consequences of technology use on mental health. The research question above will help examine the relationship between technology use and how this action results in mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Information used in this study includes both primary and secondary sources focusing on their observational and experimental data analysis.

The article explores how web-based social networking is a significant limitation to mental health. Deepa and Priya (2020) introduce a concept of time whereby they explain that the hours spent on social networking platforms promote depression and anxiety (Deepa & Priya, 2020). Some of the digital technology students use are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other web-based sites platforms, which have become a threat to mental health (Deepa & Priya, 2020). The authors explain that researchers discovered that excessive social media use was linked to mental illnesses during schooling. However, it may be alleviated by dialectical thinking, positivity, meditation, and active coping.

The authors used descriptive research using simple sampling questionnaires and ANOVA to study different groups of students and the social media platforms they use. This system provided mixed results based on these groups and examinations (Deepa & Priya, 2020). The research findings revealed a relationship between being active on social media and depression. The authors contradict a study done by Gordon et al. (2007) that mentions that the time spent on the internet has nothing to do with depression (Deepa & Priya, 2020). Instead, it is what students engage in when they are active online. This study is credible because it is not outdated and involved many participants, which helped strengthen the hypothesis created. This source will be integral in answering the types of technology students use and their consequences on mental wellness. Additionally, the journal’s credibility is guaranteed, considering that the article is an international publication. This title indicates that the journal has been peer-reviewed by many other scholars to ensure the information provided is accurate.

The article examines how internet use affects well-being by analyzing the rate of internet use among college students. Gordon et al. (2007) mention that technology use is triggered by self-expression, consumptive motives, and sharing information. In this study, Gordon et al. (2007) posit that frequency of internet use does not affect mental illness. Instead, they mention that what students do on those platforms is the factor that contributes to mental illness.

First, they mention that the internet has provided ways for students to get new acquaintances, find intimate partners, and conduct research for their college assignments, among other things. This factor indicates that these students’ daily life has become increasingly reliant on the internet (Gordon et al., 2007). Therefore, increased internet use has formed a new environment, full of peer pressure. This explanation is an indication of what they do on the internet. The reason is that they see, admire, and adopt new habits which increase stress and depressive symptoms. Additionally, overdependence on technology has affected family cohesion and social connectedness.

The article provides similar ideologies as Junco et al. (2011) that technology causes social isolation by keeping students from the realities in their environment. It explains that students live a fictional life by actively engaging in technology to hide their true selves (Gordon et al., 2007). The research is valid considering it applies rationales from different authors to justify their deduction that technology use has become an avenue for peer pressure among students. This article is essential since it explains the negative impact of technology on mental health, which is explored in this research. It is also a scholarly article considering that these authors have doctors of philosophy in education, indicating vast knowledge and command to undertake this research.

These researchers use unique survey data to investigate the adverse effects of instant messaging on academic achievement. They explain that instant messaging is not destructive since it can provide company when needed. However, excessive use of instant messaging reduces concentration by diverting the mind’s attention away from the facts of the surroundings. Students lose focus when multitasking activities like chatting while studying (Junco & Cotten, 2011). It also impacts the essential, incidental, and representational processing systems, the foundation for learning and memory. When they fail their tests, they become withdrawn with significant effects, such as anxiety and depression.

Additionally, the authors mention that students using IM become socially disengaged since IM becomes their point of contact with others. Considering all these effects, it is evident that IM can cause anxiety, depression, and social isolation if not regulated. Unlike Gordon et al. (2007), who mention only the detrimental effects of using technology, these authors mention that IM, an example of technology, helps students manage stress (Junco & Cotten, 2011). They explain that through a survey of a target group whereby students reported that IM and other online platforms such as video games had provided contact with the outside world, which relieves stress.

This article’s viability is uncertain because most arguments presented are derived from other researchers’ work (Junco & Cotten, 2011). However, the article is helpful for my research because it provides the negative and positive effects of using technology. The position of this research is that IM can help deal with stress. The viability of this research is verified considering the research has been reviewed by Mendeley Company which generates citations for scholarly articles.

Karim et al. (2020) explore how social media impacts mental health. They begin by conducting a qualitative analysis of 16 different studies provided by various researchers on the topic (Karim et al., 2020). First, they listed different types of social media platforms, including Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, to be the most widely used social media platforms among the youth. They also mention that social media has become an influential technology in the contemporary world (Karim et al., 2020). Although social media has incredible benefits, it is linked to various mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Some works agreed that social media use is detrimental to mental well-being, and the timing does not matter (Karim et al., 2020). In contrast, other studies suggested that no evidence justifies the maximum time one should be active on social media. None of the research provided the limit of time recommended for anyone to be active on social media.

The credibility of the piece is jeopardized because the researchers did not conduct their study to identify the correlation between mental health and technology (Karim et al., 2020). However, it provides substantial ideas drawn from other credible sources, which are essential in providing information addressing this topic. For example, their position is that long hours of social media use contribute to depression and anxiety (Karim et al., 2020). This focus is integral in my research since it addresses the impact of technology on mental health by explaining the possible avenues for mental health crises.

Lattie et al. (2019) investigate how the rise in mental disorders such as anxiety and depression correlates with computing technologies. According to these authors, personal computing technologies such as smartphones have become the source of mental health crises since they provide access to social media (Lattie et al., 2019). This platform has promoted harmful ideas that make people experience peer comparison. For instance, “fear of missing out (FOMO) is a pressure promoted by media which dictates how people interact, behave and talk within these platforms” (Lattie et al., 2019, para. 8). FOMO is when people feel the need to fit in with a specific trend by emulating verbatim how their internet friends behave, dress or talk. For instance, if all the girls on social media put on branded clothes for attention, every girl on the platform would also want to be like them. This pressure will result in stress to keep up with the standards set, promoting mental health disorders. These authors conclude that the pressure to feel accepted has increased the number of students negatively affected by technology.

However, the authors also mention that this digital platform has played a significant role in promoting mental health wellness. In addition, some of the interventions available such as the Headspace and Pacifica applications, are technology-enabled and provide coping skills when students face a crisis (Lattie et al., 2019). Lattie et al. (2019) provide similar sentiments as Junco et al. (2011), who also stated that technology is not entirely to blame for mental crises considering that activities such as assimilation of culture affect well-being. Additionally, this article is relevant since it has applied different up-to-date scholarly reasoning to create a hypothesis (Lattie et al., 2019). Finally, the article’s position is that social media promotes mental health by providing coping skills while also deteriorating it by contributing to disorders such as depression. However, this information is contrary to what Junco et al. (2011) mention that technology has the power to relieve stress by providing a coping mechanism.

The article provides informative discussions on the risks that digital presence has promoted. Skillbred-Fjeld et al. (2020) mention that many people have experienced harassment online based on their appearance, ethnicity, age, race, and religion. This exposure to bullying has resulted in psychological distress such as depression and suicidal thoughts. The authors indicate that most students spend more hours on digital media than how they spend with families and friends while also being more exposed to harassment. This disconnect is also a challenge to maintaining mental health, considering it breaks the bond between families and friends.

These authors stress that cyberbullying is a prevalent occurrence in online engagement and has detrimental effects on individuals. This article does not share similar rationales with other articles in this search since it focuses on proving how cyberbullying results in mental illness. The article answers the proposed research question, and its position is that cyberbullying affects most students using digital communication systems (Skilbred-Fjeld et al., 2020). The article is credible for this research since the author engaged in intensive searches, which enhanced the viability of the information provided.

In her article “Cyberspace and Identity,” Turkle (1999) posits that the development of cyberspace interactions has extended the range of identities. The author establishes her case with four essential points. Her first observation is that digital presence is based on fiction and not reality. Second, she claims that digital profile results from a digital exhibition that does not last. The third point made by Turkle (1999) is that online identity affects real self-considering the fact that it affects thoughts and behaviors). Finally, she claims that online identity exemplifies a cultural conception of diversity.

This author introduces the aspect of role-playing promoted by digital presence. She mentions that people are given a chance to portray themselves in a different light from reality on digital platforms considering the anonymity established when altering self-image through textual construction (Turkle, 1999). The research by Gordon et al. (2007) reinforced this claim when they mentioned that digital engagement does not cause mental illness. Instead, what students do on those platforms is the primary factor contributing to mental illness (Turkle, 1999). This factor is relatable in the current digital world since people share their adventurous moments, making others who cannot enjoy such things feel unworthy, posing a significant threat to mental wellness. The article’s position is that images portrayed on digital platforms are illusions, and they have promoted peer pressure, anxiety, and depression in people who believe them to be true (Turkle, 1999). The same sentiments are shared by Skilbred-Fjeld et al. (2020) since they mention that social media has become a site to dehumanize others who are less privileged. This occurrence promotes fear, self-hate, and depression, indicating a match in reasoning among these authors.

Deepa, M., & Priya, K. (2020). Impact of social media on mental health of students. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research , 9 (03). Web.

Gordon, C., Juang, L., & Syed, M. (2007). Internet use and well-being among college students: Beyond frequency of use. Journal of College Student Development , 48( 6), 674-688. Web.

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2011). Perceived academic effects of instant messaging use.

Computer & Education , 56 (2), 370-378. Web.

Karim, F., Oyewande, A. A., Abdalla, L. F., Ehsanullah, R. C., & Khan, S. (2020). Social media use and its connection to mental health: A systematic review. Cureus , 12 (6). Web.

Lattie, E. G., Lipson, S. K., & Eisenberg, D. (2019). Technology and college student mental health: Challenges and opportunities. Frontiers in psychiatry , (10) , 246. Web.

Skilbred-Fjeld, S., Reme, S. E., & Mossige, S. (2020). Cyberbullying involvement and mental health problems among late adolescents. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace , 14 (1). Web.

Turkle, S. (1999). Looking toward cyberspace: Beyond grounded sociology. Cyberspace and identity. Contemporary Sociology , 28 (6), Web.

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Technology, Population Health, and Human Wellness

Sameer bhat.

eClinicalWorks Company, Westborough, USA

Progress and Promise over a Half-Century

It has been more than a half-century since Dr. Lawrence Weed published his landmark paper ‘Medical Records that Guide and Teach’ in the March 14, 1968, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. His insight — that technology could bring order to the sometimes overwhelming and chaotic world of medical practice—gave birth to the world’s first Electronic Medical Records 1 .

For two generations now, physicians and technologists have built on that vision, but only in the last decade has the medical community begun to appreciate three essential facets of healthcare and healthcare IT. This paper will examine each of the three in turn, illustrating ways in which physicians have and can continue to reshape their thinking about the electronic health record (EHR).

The EHR is a digital version of a patient’s traditional paper medical chart, containing patient histories and demographics, medications, treatment plans, and lab results. The best of today’s EHRs do still more: They connect physicians to networks of patient data, manage communications, and employ analytics to deepen understanding of the health of populations.

State-of-the-art EHRs add value because they provide physicians with tools to analyze cohorts of patients, identify those with common needs, and guide care efforts to target those patients most in need and most likely to benefit from interventions.

Moreover, the best EHRs on the market today also serve to minimize the risks of physician burnout by reducing clicks, making documentation easier, and integrating with interoperability networks to ensure that doctors have access to complete patient data, on demand and at the point of care.

Let us examine three aspects of healthcare that follow naturally from the power of today’s advanced EHRs:

  • I: Population health is central to addressing the healthcare challenges of the future
  • II: The full power of the EHR must be employed to best impact patient outcomes
  • III: Patients must be empowered as full partners in a shared healthcare journey

Why Population Health is Central

A 2015 survey conducted by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University defined population health as “an opportunity for health care systems, agencies and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve” 2 .

Population health can be thought of as a set of tools and techniques for achieving broader public health goals. Public health agencies are concerned with big-picture matters such as sanitation, vaccination rates, and controlling disease outbreaks. Population health, while sharing many public health goals, brings together public and private agencies, data analysis, and the power of EHRs to identify patterns and develop proactive strategies for improving the health of a given set of patients or an entire community.

Three key questions guide population health efforts:

  • How can the application of technology, including analytics, not only improve care quality but create an entirely new model of care ?
  • How can a fully integrated EHR improve follow-up and patient satisfaction to build strong, two-way engagement ?
  • How can technology be used to achieve the first two objectives more efficiently ?

Step 1: Understanding the New Care Model

Today, industry-leading EHRs allow doctors to recall and analyze data more quickly and in greater quantities than any paper-based system. An integrated EHR brings together questionnaires, lab tests, observations, and progress notes.

The initial patient encounter is measured from first contact through proper follow-up, but is only the beginning of the care process. What appears to be a closed-loop system turns out to be a semi-open one to which new information is constantly being added.

Moreover, telemedicine can now create a second cycle of care in which the visit takes place in the comfort of the patient’s home, allowing for more frequent interaction and emphasizing preventive medicine throughout the year.

Step 2: Building Two-Way Engagement

The management of chronic conditions illustrates how doctors can strengthen engagement. Such illness can be managed from one office visit to the next, but management may be more effective with wearable devices that permit remote patient monitoring.

A 2018 analysis published in NPJ Digital Medicine “found that remote patient monitoring showed early promise in improving outcomes for patients with select conditions, including obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, and low back pain 3 .

Step 3: Achieving Care and Engagement More Efficiently

The third step in placing population health at the center of modern healthcare arises from a simple question: How do we achieve better care outcomes and strengthen patient engagement more efficiently?

The answer lies not in working harder, but in working smarter—and leads directly to core population health principles. As doctors use healthcare IT to better understand individual patients, they realize they can intervene on behalf of all patients who share common conditions.

When properly integrated and equipped to take advantage of EHR big data and artificial intelligence, an EHR can help physicians move from the particular to the general, analyze the efficacy of their interventions, and offer positive feedback that enhances overall performance. Population health tools can do still more, allowing doctors to manage patients with chronic illness, evaluate and stratify risk, predict the likelihood of hospitalizations, and manage patients moving among care settings.

Realizing the Full Power of the EHR

Having sketched a working definition of population health, we turn to the second of the fundamental facets and ask: How medical practitioners make full use of the EHR?

Complexity and Data in Healthcare

The exponential growth in the complexity and volume of patient data has led physicians to conclude that the only ally in the fight to tame technology is more technology.

In healthcare today, there are simply too many data points for even the most gifted physician to evaluate on their own. If doctors cannot discern what is most significant in the patient record, they might waste time and resources replicating previous work, order unnecessary tests, or miss a diagnosis.

Data Proves its Worth

Lingering opposition to technology has evaporated as physicians and office staff have witnessed the power of healthcare IT.

A drug recall, for example, used to take days or weeks to communicate via phone, fax, and email. With today’s messaging software, the EHR can identify all patients and practices impacted by a recall, generate a report, and reach each of them using a variety of modalities, including email, text, and app and portal notifications.

Such speed and efficiency are critical for reducing the possibility of medical errors and patient harm.

And while every physician has witnessed the power of analytics to extend their diagnostic and management capabilities for patients with chronic conditions, they also understand that software is intended to enhance rather than replace human judgment in the art of medicine 4 .

Improving Care with Greater Cost Efficiency

But technology does come with a caveat, one outlined in a 2013 article in MIT Technology Review, in which economist Jonathan Gruber warned that “In health care, new technology makes things better, but more expensive” 5 .

The key challenge in maximizing the power of the EHR, then, consists in finding ways to leverage the technology while controlling costs.

The following cases illustrate how healthcare IT can be leveraged to achieve public health and population health goals.

Case in Point

New york city: primary care information project.

In 2007, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched an EHR initiative as part of the city’s Primary Care Information Project (PCIP).

Involving a coalition of community health organizations and more than 3,200 physicians, PCIP aimed to support health goals related to prevention and primary care, including:

  • Facilitating connections between communities and clinical resources.
  • Educating physicians on the adoption and use of information systems.
  • Adapting data and health information to facilitate improvements in patient care.
  • Translating federal, state, and local policies and programs into actions.

Better Health in the Big Apple

New York City’s PCIP is a textbook example of how Electronic Health Records, in combination with provider and patient education, could make a major difference in the health of a community.

According to the office of then New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:

  • Between 2008 and 2011, the number of preventive care services that participating doctors provided grew, on average, by about 290% 6 .
  • The use of EHR technology led to improvements in detecting certain preventable health problems, including high blood pressure, tobacco use, high cholesterol, and diabetes 6 .
  • An additional 81,000 patients improved their diabetes management, 96,000 New Yorkers got help controlling high blood pressure, and 58,000 people received assistance in quitting smoking 6 .

The NYC Hub Population Health System (Hub) was built to create those closed-loop networks discussed above, making it easier to analyze the quality of care across one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities.

Quality Measures for Population Health

As noted in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association , the PCIP was centered squarely on population health 7 .

The PCIP identified more than 30 quality measures, beginning with access to care. The project identified areas of the city with high body-mass index (BMI) values, suggesting an elevated risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. And the project was able to correlate such areas with a lack of access to high-quality food, including fresh vegetables.

“Given the geographic component of these queries,” Michael D. Buck and colleagues wrote, “these EHR datasets can be linked to other Geographical Information System (GIS) data like air quality and census socioeconomic information to give a more complete picture of health issues and disparities throughout NYC.”

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Integrated analytics in the eClinicalWorks® EHR yield reports such as this one showing distributions of hemoglobin A1c values, helping alert providers to which of their patients are at risk for diabetes.

Commonwealth of The Bahamas: National Health Insurance Authority

In The Bahamas, the country has launched an ambitious program to address population health challenges in which the medical conditions are familiar, but the geography demands a different approach from that of a major urban area. The 385,000 residents of the Bahamas live on about 30 inhabited islands in an archipelago of some 700 islands and cays spread over 500 miles of the Atlantic Ocean in an area east of Florida.

In 2016, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) was established to address several issues:

  • The Bahamas’ current healthcare system is fragmented, meaning services are often duplicated, leading to waste and inefficiency 8 .
  • Even in 2020, approximately 50% of Bahamians are uninsured, while 20% are covered by the NHI and 30% have private insurance 9 .
  • The nation has seen a sharp increase in diabetes, present in 13.9% of the population, and a death rate attributable to diabetes of 37.9 deaths per 100,000 people 10 .

The NHIA is leading the nation toward a universal healthcare system that promises higher quality, affordability, and more financially sustainable health services and health insurance for all Bahamians.

Telemedicine Working, Broader Rollout Ahead

Although the EHR program in The Bahamas NHIA is ongoing, the early reports suggest the program is working as intended.

It has been interesting to see how residents of areas of the Bahamas that previously lacked any access to healthcare—and where it would be impractical and not cost-effective to open a facility—are now able to obtain services through telemedicine.

Patients Must be Empowered

Having established the centrality of population health and having illustrated how the use of technology can be maximized to achieve health goals in diverse settings, we now address the third of our healthcare facets—the need to empower patients in their own care.

Going Beyond a Login

Establishing a strong bond between the healthcare provider and the patient is at the heart of medicine, but engagement is about more than providing patients with an app and a login or enabling them to access records through a portal. It requires outreach and education through multiple channels to build the understanding that health is a shared journey.

The advantage that today’s doctors and patients enjoy is that technology—including wearable health devices and telemedicine—is putting access to healthcare within the reach of an ever-growing percentage of healthcare consumers.

How Telemedicine is Empowering Everyone

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many physicians have increased their use of telemedicine or adopted it for the first time. As a result, they realized that telemedicine can be used not only for routine primary care, but also for specialties covering diagnoses, wound care, consultations, and pre- and post-operative assessments.

The value of remote care is particularly evident in behavioral and mental health 11 . Often, patients do not feel comfortable coming to a clinic or may lack the time to do so. Telemedicine is breaking down barriers of time and distance and removing the stigma often attached to mental health services. Many medical providers, including therapists, report that telemedicine has led to more meaningful and insightful visits.

Moreover, patients increasingly expect their doctors to offer telemedicine. That expectation grew in response to Covid-19 but makes sense independently of the pandemic. Healthcare consumers recognize that telemedicine can extend care to remote and underserved communities, as well as to individuals for whom time and mobility may be issues.

As one recent analysis concluded, “Telemedicine is still an integral step in the right direction as medical practitioners are deploying innovative approaches to manage the COVID-19 situation.” 12

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In a one-month period in March to April 2020, eClinicalWorks saw a 16-fold increase in the use of healow TeleVisits among physicians seeking ways to limit the spread of illness while continuing to provide care to patients.

The role of Wearables

Wearable health devices, including fitness trackers and blood glucose monitors, also have enormous potential to strengthen patient engagement.

As referenced above [ 3 ], the ability to link such devices to an EHR gives physicians unparalleled insight into the day-to-day health of patients and an early warning system that can indicate when a medical intervention is needed.

A July 2019 study found that while adoption of wearable health devices “has lagged when compared to other well-established durable technology products, such as smartphones and tablets”, potential benefits will be more fully realized “when consumers have strong and positive intentions to adopt wearable healthcare technology”. 13

Summary: The Impacts of a Pandemic in a Changing World

Finally, it is important to recognize the unexpected beneficial impacts of Covid-19. To be sure, the pandemic has taken an enormous toll on human life and caused serious economic loss worldwide. But it has also had three discernible impacts on healthcare that, understood in the context of population health, may point the way to a better future for all.

A Catalyst for Technology Adoption

First, the pandemic sped adoption of key technologies that have the potential to address longstanding and seemingly insoluble challenges in healthcare. Healthcare IT is finally beginning to cut across national boundaries as well as boundaries of race, nationality, gender, and class.

Telemedicine is perhaps the most visible of these trends. The greatly enhanced role remote visits now play in the U.S. market is likely to be confirmed by legal and regulatory actions as lawmakers and policy makers recognize their value for improving healthcare access, equity, and affordability.

Better Preparation for the Future

Second, the changes include a better understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of medical systems. While public health experts have long warned of the potential for such a pandemic, the reality of this crisis has driven that message home.

In a general sense, the events of 2020 have underscored the need to improve the capacity and resilience of health systems. More specifically, they have placed population health in the spotlight, illustrating the value of big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to identify emerging crises and take steps to reduce their impact.

Toward a New Understanding of ROI

Finally, the combination of emerging technologies, population health tools, and a renewed appreciation of the importance of engaging patients is demonstrating, with real results, the meaning of return on investment to the healthcare community.

Physicians and patients are coming to understand that technology’s impact on human health cannot be expressed solely or completely through a spreadsheet or a bottom line. It is coming to be understood in human terms, in the quality of care we offer and the impact that care has on both individual wellness and the good of society.

leads eClinicalWorks sales and business development department and oversees its product roadmap. He served as one of the original key contributors of eClinicalWorks who designed and built its initial technology architecture. As a co-founder, he has helped structure eClinicalWorks into a profitable, debt-free company with products used by doctors across USA and around the world. This work was recognized by the Worcester Business Journal when it honored Bhat with its 2009 40 Under 40 Award for business leaders. Previously, Bhat worked as a senior software engineer developing applications for remote desktop and network management for Novell, Inc., and served a lead engineer for developing web-based document management software at Integra Microsystems. He holds a Bachelor degree in electronics and communications engineering from Karnataka University.

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Josephine Wolff; How Is Technology Changing the World, and How Should the World Change Technology?. Global Perspectives 1 February 2021; 2 (1): 27353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gp.2021.27353

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Technologies are becoming increasingly complicated and increasingly interconnected. Cars, airplanes, medical devices, financial transactions, and electricity systems all rely on more computer software than they ever have before, making them seem both harder to understand and, in some cases, harder to control. Government and corporate surveillance of individuals and information processing relies largely on digital technologies and artificial intelligence, and therefore involves less human-to-human contact than ever before and more opportunities for biases to be embedded and codified in our technological systems in ways we may not even be able to identify or recognize. Bioengineering advances are opening up new terrain for challenging philosophical, political, and economic questions regarding human-natural relations. Additionally, the management of these large and small devices and systems is increasingly done through the cloud, so that control over them is both very remote and removed from direct human or social control. The study of how to make technologies like artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things “explainable” has become its own area of research because it is so difficult to understand how they work or what is at fault when something goes wrong (Gunning and Aha 2019) .

This growing complexity makes it more difficult than ever—and more imperative than ever—for scholars to probe how technological advancements are altering life around the world in both positive and negative ways and what social, political, and legal tools are needed to help shape the development and design of technology in beneficial directions. This can seem like an impossible task in light of the rapid pace of technological change and the sense that its continued advancement is inevitable, but many countries around the world are only just beginning to take significant steps toward regulating computer technologies and are still in the process of radically rethinking the rules governing global data flows and exchange of technology across borders.

These are exciting times not just for technological development but also for technology policy—our technologies may be more advanced and complicated than ever but so, too, are our understandings of how they can best be leveraged, protected, and even constrained. The structures of technological systems as determined largely by government and institutional policies and those structures have tremendous implications for social organization and agency, ranging from open source, open systems that are highly distributed and decentralized, to those that are tightly controlled and closed, structured according to stricter and more hierarchical models. And just as our understanding of the governance of technology is developing in new and interesting ways, so, too, is our understanding of the social, cultural, environmental, and political dimensions of emerging technologies. We are realizing both the challenges and the importance of mapping out the full range of ways that technology is changing our society, what we want those changes to look like, and what tools we have to try to influence and guide those shifts.

Technology can be a source of tremendous optimism. It can help overcome some of the greatest challenges our society faces, including climate change, famine, and disease. For those who believe in the power of innovation and the promise of creative destruction to advance economic development and lead to better quality of life, technology is a vital economic driver (Schumpeter 1942) . But it can also be a tool of tremendous fear and oppression, embedding biases in automated decision-making processes and information-processing algorithms, exacerbating economic and social inequalities within and between countries to a staggering degree, or creating new weapons and avenues for attack unlike any we have had to face in the past. Scholars have even contended that the emergence of the term technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries marked a shift from viewing individual pieces of machinery as a means to achieving political and social progress to the more dangerous, or hazardous, view that larger-scale, more complex technological systems were a semiautonomous form of progress in and of themselves (Marx 2010) . More recently, technologists have sharply criticized what they view as a wave of new Luddites, people intent on slowing the development of technology and turning back the clock on innovation as a means of mitigating the societal impacts of technological change (Marlowe 1970) .

At the heart of fights over new technologies and their resulting global changes are often two conflicting visions of technology: a fundamentally optimistic one that believes humans use it as a tool to achieve greater goals, and a fundamentally pessimistic one that holds that technological systems have reached a point beyond our control. Technology philosophers have argued that neither of these views is wholly accurate and that a purely optimistic or pessimistic view of technology is insufficient to capture the nuances and complexity of our relationship to technology (Oberdiek and Tiles 1995) . Understanding technology and how we can make better decisions about designing, deploying, and refining it requires capturing that nuance and complexity through in-depth analysis of the impacts of different technological advancements and the ways they have played out in all their complicated and controversial messiness across the world.

These impacts are often unpredictable as technologies are adopted in new contexts and come to be used in ways that sometimes diverge significantly from the use cases envisioned by their designers. The internet, designed to help transmit information between computer networks, became a crucial vehicle for commerce, introducing unexpected avenues for crime and financial fraud. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, designed to connect friends and families through sharing photographs and life updates, became focal points of election controversies and political influence. Cryptocurrencies, originally intended as a means of decentralized digital cash, have become a significant environmental hazard as more and more computing resources are devoted to mining these forms of virtual money. One of the crucial challenges in this area is therefore recognizing, documenting, and even anticipating some of these unexpected consequences and providing mechanisms to technologists for how to think through the impacts of their work, as well as possible other paths to different outcomes (Verbeek 2006) . And just as technological innovations can cause unexpected harm, they can also bring about extraordinary benefits—new vaccines and medicines to address global pandemics and save thousands of lives, new sources of energy that can drastically reduce emissions and help combat climate change, new modes of education that can reach people who would otherwise have no access to schooling. Regulating technology therefore requires a careful balance of mitigating risks without overly restricting potentially beneficial innovations.

Nations around the world have taken very different approaches to governing emerging technologies and have adopted a range of different technologies themselves in pursuit of more modern governance structures and processes (Braman 2009) . In Europe, the precautionary principle has guided much more anticipatory regulation aimed at addressing the risks presented by technologies even before they are fully realized. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation focuses on the responsibilities of data controllers and processors to provide individuals with access to their data and information about how that data is being used not just as a means of addressing existing security and privacy threats, such as data breaches, but also to protect against future developments and uses of that data for artificial intelligence and automated decision-making purposes. In Germany, Technische Überwachungsvereine, or TÜVs, perform regular tests and inspections of technological systems to assess and minimize risks over time, as the tech landscape evolves. In the United States, by contrast, there is much greater reliance on litigation and liability regimes to address safety and security failings after-the-fact. These different approaches reflect not just the different legal and regulatory mechanisms and philosophies of different nations but also the different ways those nations prioritize rapid development of the technology industry versus safety, security, and individual control. Typically, governance innovations move much more slowly than technological innovations, and regulations can lag years, or even decades, behind the technologies they aim to govern.

In addition to this varied set of national regulatory approaches, a variety of international and nongovernmental organizations also contribute to the process of developing standards, rules, and norms for new technologies, including the International Organization for Standardization­ and the International Telecommunication Union. These multilateral and NGO actors play an especially important role in trying to define appropriate boundaries for the use of new technologies by governments as instruments of control for the state.

At the same time that policymakers are under scrutiny both for their decisions about how to regulate technology as well as their decisions about how and when to adopt technologies like facial recognition themselves, technology firms and designers have also come under increasing criticism. Growing recognition that the design of technologies can have far-reaching social and political implications means that there is more pressure on technologists to take into consideration the consequences of their decisions early on in the design process (Vincenti 1993; Winner 1980) . The question of how technologists should incorporate these social dimensions into their design and development processes is an old one, and debate on these issues dates back to the 1970s, but it remains an urgent and often overlooked part of the puzzle because so many of the supposedly systematic mechanisms for assessing the impacts of new technologies in both the private and public sectors are primarily bureaucratic, symbolic processes rather than carrying any real weight or influence.

Technologists are often ill-equipped or unwilling to respond to the sorts of social problems that their creations have—often unwittingly—exacerbated, and instead point to governments and lawmakers to address those problems (Zuckerberg 2019) . But governments often have few incentives to engage in this area. This is because setting clear standards and rules for an ever-evolving technological landscape can be extremely challenging, because enforcement of those rules can be a significant undertaking requiring considerable expertise, and because the tech sector is a major source of jobs and revenue for many countries that may fear losing those benefits if they constrain companies too much. This indicates not just a need for clearer incentives and better policies for both private- and public-sector entities but also a need for new mechanisms whereby the technology development and design process can be influenced and assessed by people with a wider range of experiences and expertise. If we want technologies to be designed with an eye to their impacts, who is responsible for predicting, measuring, and mitigating those impacts throughout the design process? Involving policymakers in that process in a more meaningful way will also require training them to have the analytic and technical capacity to more fully engage with technologists and understand more fully the implications of their decisions.

At the same time that tech companies seem unwilling or unable to rein in their creations, many also fear they wield too much power, in some cases all but replacing governments and international organizations in their ability to make decisions that affect millions of people worldwide and control access to information, platforms, and audiences (Kilovaty 2020) . Regulators around the world have begun considering whether some of these companies have become so powerful that they violate the tenets of antitrust laws, but it can be difficult for governments to identify exactly what those violations are, especially in the context of an industry where the largest players often provide their customers with free services. And the platforms and services developed by tech companies are often wielded most powerfully and dangerously not directly by their private-sector creators and operators but instead by states themselves for widespread misinformation campaigns that serve political purposes (Nye 2018) .

Since the largest private entities in the tech sector operate in many countries, they are often better poised to implement global changes to the technological ecosystem than individual states or regulatory bodies, creating new challenges to existing governance structures and hierarchies. Just as it can be challenging to provide oversight for government use of technologies, so, too, oversight of the biggest tech companies, which have more resources, reach, and power than many nations, can prove to be a daunting task. The rise of network forms of organization and the growing gig economy have added to these challenges, making it even harder for regulators to fully address the breadth of these companies’ operations (Powell 1990) . The private-public partnerships that have emerged around energy, transportation, medical, and cyber technologies further complicate this picture, blurring the line between the public and private sectors and raising critical questions about the role of each in providing critical infrastructure, health care, and security. How can and should private tech companies operating in these different sectors be governed, and what types of influence do they exert over regulators? How feasible are different policy proposals aimed at technological innovation, and what potential unintended consequences might they have?

Conflict between countries has also spilled over significantly into the private sector in recent years, most notably in the case of tensions between the United States and China over which technologies developed in each country will be permitted by the other and which will be purchased by other customers, outside those two countries. Countries competing to develop the best technology is not a new phenomenon, but the current conflicts have major international ramifications and will influence the infrastructure that is installed and used around the world for years to come. Untangling the different factors that feed into these tussles as well as whom they benefit and whom they leave at a disadvantage is crucial for understanding how governments can most effectively foster technological innovation and invention domestically as well as the global consequences of those efforts. As much of the world is forced to choose between buying technology from the United States or from China, how should we understand the long-term impacts of those choices and the options available to people in countries without robust domestic tech industries? Does the global spread of technologies help fuel further innovation in countries with smaller tech markets, or does it reinforce the dominance of the states that are already most prominent in this sector? How can research universities maintain global collaborations and research communities in light of these national competitions, and what role does government research and development spending play in fostering innovation within its own borders and worldwide? How should intellectual property protections evolve to meet the demands of the technology industry, and how can those protections be enforced globally?

These conflicts between countries sometimes appear to challenge the feasibility of truly global technologies and networks that operate across all countries through standardized protocols and design features. Organizations like the International Organization for Standardization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and many others have tried to harmonize these policies and protocols across different countries for years, but have met with limited success when it comes to resolving the issues of greatest tension and disagreement among nations. For technology to operate in a global environment, there is a need for a much greater degree of coordination among countries and the development of common standards and norms, but governments continue to struggle to agree not just on those norms themselves but even the appropriate venue and processes for developing them. Without greater global cooperation, is it possible to maintain a global network like the internet or to promote the spread of new technologies around the world to address challenges of sustainability? What might help incentivize that cooperation moving forward, and what could new structures and process for governance of global technologies look like? Why has the tech industry’s self-regulation culture persisted? Do the same traditional drivers for public policy, such as politics of harmonization and path dependency in policy-making, still sufficiently explain policy outcomes in this space? As new technologies and their applications spread across the globe in uneven ways, how and when do they create forces of change from unexpected places?

These are some of the questions that we hope to address in the Technology and Global Change section through articles that tackle new dimensions of the global landscape of designing, developing, deploying, and assessing new technologies to address major challenges the world faces. Understanding these processes requires synthesizing knowledge from a range of different fields, including sociology, political science, economics, and history, as well as technical fields such as engineering, climate science, and computer science. A crucial part of understanding how technology has created global change and, in turn, how global changes have influenced the development of new technologies is understanding the technologies themselves in all their richness and complexity—how they work, the limits of what they can do, what they were designed to do, how they are actually used. Just as technologies themselves are becoming more complicated, so are their embeddings and relationships to the larger social, political, and legal contexts in which they exist. Scholars across all disciplines are encouraged to join us in untangling those complexities.

Josephine Wolff is an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Her book You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late: The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cybersecurity Breaches was published by MIT Press in 2018.

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How does technology affect your physical health?

essay on how technology affect our health

With tens of billions of internet-connected devices around the world, technology surrounds us like never before. There are many positive aspects to technology – not least, helping us stay connected to others, which has been a lifeline throughout the pandemic – but alongside the benefits, there are also potential health consequences that should be considered. In this overview, we explore the effects of technology overuse and the negative and positive impacts of technology on health.

essay on how technology affect our health

Negative impacts of technology on health

Some of the health problems caused by technology include:

Musculoskeletal issues

Looking down at an electronic gadget for long periods can lead to neck and back pain, as well as pains in elbows, wrists, and hands. In addition, laptop and smartphone usage can involve people sitting in positions consistent with poor ergonomic function and poor ergonomic positioning. As well as back pain from computer use, often caused by poor gaming posture or computer posture, there have also been reports of “selfie elbow” or “texting thumb” caused by technology overuse.

How to minimize musculoskeletal issues:

  • Ensure proper sitting posture at the computer by ensuring that your desk, seat, and screen set-up is optimized – the UK's NHS has detailed guidance on achieving this here .
  • Instead of holding your phone in your lap, you can minimize neck problems by holding it out in front of you. Positioning the device so it is in front of your face with your head sitting squarely on your shoulders is helpful to your neck.
  • Consider using a body-standing desk. These make staring straight at your computer screen possible and help you avoid the health dangers of sitting all day.
  • If texting with your thumbs causes pain, you may need to use other fingers to text or use a stylus.
  • Regular screen breaks – allowing you to walk around, stand up, or stretch – will help relieve muscle pain and stress.

Digital eye strain

Constant exposure to digital devices can be harmful to our eyes. Digital eye strain, sometimes called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of too much screen time. For example, one study suggested over 60% of Americans were affected by it . Symptoms of digital eye strain include dry eyes, redness around the eyes, headaches, blurred vision, plus neck and shoulder pain.

How to reduce digital eye strain:

  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule for healthy digital device usage – i.e., take a 20-second break from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. You could set a timer every 20 minutes to act as a reminder.
  • Reduce overhead lighting to minimize screen glare.
  • Increase text size on devices so you can read comfortably.
  • Make sure you are blinking – when we stare at digital devices, we can blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes. If dry eyes are bothering you, using eye drops could help.
  • Get regular eye check-ups. Poor eyesight contributes to eye strain. Regular check-ups will help ensure timely prescriptions when you need them.

Disrupted sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital for almost every bodily function. But using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone shortly before going to bed can affect your ability to fall asleep. This is because the so-called blue light from devices can lead to heightened alertness and disrupt your body clock. In addition, activities on digital devices can be stimulating and make us much less ready for sleep. As a result, people can become absorbed and continue using the technology past their bedtime.

It’s important to distinguish between interactive and passive technological devices. Passive devices are those which require little or no input from users. Examples include listening to music, reading an e-book, or watching TV or a movie. With interactive devices, what is viewed on-screen changes with input from the user. For example, playing a video game is interactive, as is chatting on social media. Interactive activities are more likely to disrupt sleep than passive activities.

How to avoid disrupted sleep:

  • Avoid using your smartphone, laptop, and tablet for at least an hour before going to sleep every night. Reading a book is more likely to relax you than scrolling through social media feeds.
  • Dim the screen as much as possible for evening use. In many e-readers, you can also invert the screen color (i.e., white font on black background). Many devices now come with a 'night-time mode,' which is easier on the eye before bed.
  • You could consider using a software program for PCs and laptops which decreases the amount of blue light in computer screens – which affects melatonin levels – and increases orange tones instead. An example is a program called f.lux which is available here .
  • If you can, consider making your bedroom a screen-free zone.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that doesn’t involve screens, to help you relax before going to sleep.

Physical inactivity

Excessive use of smartphones, laptops, and tablets can lead to physical inactivity. For example, according to one study , 38% of parents worried that their children weren’t getting enough physical exercise due to excessive screen time.

Too much sedentary time has been linked to an increased risk of a range of health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The Covid-19 pandemic – which kept people at home, increased reliance on digital technology, and saw sporting events around the world canceled – didn't help. Still, even before Covid, it’s estimated that physical inactivity was costing 5.3 million lives a year globally .

How to stay active:

  • The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week for adults. Health organizations around the world advise against prolonged sitting for all age groups.
  • Get up and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes. Walk around, take restroom breaks, carry out simple stretches to pump fresh blood and oxygen through your body.
  • Find a physical activity you enjoy – whether that’s walking, cycling, swimming, or a team sport.
  • Certain apps and wearable technologies can help keep you active – for example, by sending push notifications telling you it's time to move or by helping you set and track fitness goals.

Psychological issues

Excessive screen time can negatively affect mental and emotional wellbeing. For example, by inducing anxiety because someone hasn’t replied quickly enough to your WhatsApp or text message, or constantly checking your social media feeds to see how many likes your last post received. It’s easy for both adults and children to compare themselves unfavorably to others on social media, which in turn can lead to feelings of anxiety.

Then there’s ‘doom scrolling’ – 1 in 5 Americans now obtain their news from social media , which is a more significant proportion than those who read traditional print media. Social media users who log in multiple times a day can be exposed to non-stop news, typically bad news such as natural disasters, terrorist events, political division, high-profile crimes, etc. Bingeing on bad news via social media or other online sources is known as doom scrolling, which can adversely affect mental health.

How to minimize psychological effects:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend on social media – one study found that the less people used social media, the less depressed and lonely they felt . You can use a timer or app to track how long you are spending on social networking sites.
  • Use real-world activities to help you focus on your immediate surroundings and circumstances. For example, you can read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, do some baking, or phone a friend.
  • Remember that social media is not a true reflection of reality – user feeds are often highly curated and show only a small proportion of real life.

Negative effects on kids

Technology overuse can have a significant impact on children and teenagers. This is because children’s brains are still developing, which means they can be more sensitive to the effects of technology overuse than adults. For example, some studies suggest that excessive screen time and social media use among kids and teens can impact social skills, creativity, attention spans , and language and emotional development delays. In addition, the same issues described above – poor posture, eye strain, disrupted sleep, and lack of physical activity leading to obesity – also apply to children.

How to minimize the impact on kids:

  • It’s important for parents and caregivers to monitor screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 18 months old avoid screen time altogether, except for video chat , while 2-5 years old should have no more than 1 hour a day of supervised viewing. For older children, the Academy no longer provides a specific recommended time limit (previously, it recommended no more than 2 hours per day, but this was seen as unrealistic given how pervasive technology has become). Instead, the Academy encourages parents and caregivers to set sensible screen limits based on their own circumstances.
  • To help your children get better sleep, talk to them about how digital devices can disrupt sleep and encourage them to avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Set aside time without technology – for example, by turning off electronics at specific times or set days of the week.
  • Model good behaviors for your children by avoiding technology overuse and ensuring your own healthy screen time per day.

Impact on hearing

Prolonged use of earphones, headphones, or earbuds at high volumes can cause hearing loss. The World Health Organization  estimates  that 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices, in part from listening to music via headphones or earbuds. Noise exposure is one of the most  common causes of hearing loss.

How to minimize the impact on hearing:

  • Outside-the-ear headphones are considered a better option because, unlike earbuds which deliver music directly into the ear, they provide a buffering space between the music and the ear canal.
  • Better quality headphones are likely to improve both your listening experience and protect your hearing.
  • You could also consider using noise-canceling headphones, which work by using inverse waves to cancel out the incoming sound. Another option is noise-isolating headphones, which create a seal around the ear that creates a physical barrier between the ear and the outside noise.
  • Experts recommend listening at no more than 85 decibels (dB) for no more than 8 hours per day.

A woman using a fitness app on her smart phone and smart watch. Fitness tracking apps provide one example of the potential positive effects of technology on health.

Positive effects of technology on health

It’s not all bad: there are many ways in which technology can also positively impact our health. For example, digital devices or apps can help to improve our diets, track our fitness activities, act as a reminder to get up and move or take our medication. There is a wealth of well-sourced and credible medical information online, which allows people to research their own health conditions (although it's important to note that misinformation also exists, and looking up information about health symptoms online can sometimes be a double-edged sword, causing needless worry).

In addition, technology helps medical providers ensure better patient care, improve relationships with patients, and deliver medical results direct to patients’ phones. Examples include:

  • Online medical records that give patients access to test results and allow them to fill prescriptions.
  • Apps that track chronic illnesses and communicate essential information to doctors.
  • Virtual medical appointments – through video and phone consultations – especially during and post-Covid.

Tips for using technology in a healthy way

Some tips for ensuring healthy screen time include:

  • Remove unnecessary apps from your phone to prevent you from constantly checking them for updates.
  • Set screen time limits and stick to them.
  • Log off and take regular breaks.
  • Review and maximize your privacy settings on social media. Be selective about what you want to post and who you want to see it.
  • Keep mealtimes gadget-free.
  • Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom. Turn clocks and other glowing devices towards the wall at bedtime. Avoid using digital devices for at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Use the internet to stay connected but prioritize real-world relationships over virtual ones.

If you are a parent or caregiver, many of the same principles apply:

  • Set limits on screen time and restrict it before bedtimes and during mealtimes.
  • Encourage in-person interactions over online interactions.
  • Encourage children to have technology-free playtime.
  • Make sure you're aware of what programs, games, and apps they are spending time on – you can read our article on apps and websites parents need to know about here .
  • Explore technology together with your children.
  • Use a parental control app like Kaspersky Safe Kids – as well as minimizing their exposure to inappropriate content, it also helps you manage their screen time and includes expert advice and tips from child psychologists on online topics.

In summary: technology is an integral aspect of modern life, and there are both positive and negative effects of computer use on human health. Taking sensible steps – such as setting limits on screen time, ensuring correct posture, taking regular breaks, and keeping active – can help minimize the impacts of technology on health.

Related articles:

  • Internet safety – guidelines for kids and teens
  • How to find the best antivirus for gaming
  • What are the effects of cyberbullying
  • How to deal with trolling, bots and fake accounts
  • https://www.kaspersky.com/blog/secure-futures-magazine/it-health-work/37690/

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Deciphering Apple’s Financial Statements: a Comprehensive Analysis

This essay about Apple’s financial statements provides an in-depth analysis of the company’s fiscal health and operational efficiency for the year 2023. It examines the income statement, highlighting revenue growth driven by strong product sales and services, and discusses the impact of cost of goods sold and operating expenses on profitability. The balance sheet reveals Apple’s robust financial position with substantial assets and manageable liabilities, emphasizing its liquidity and investment potential. The cash flow statement showcases Apple’s ability to generate significant cash from operations, enabling strategic investments and shareholder returns. Overall, the essay underscores Apple’s financial stability and strategic positioning for sustained growth and innovation.

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Apple Inc. is a dominant force in the technology industry, with consistently exceptional financial results. Apple’s financial statements offer vital insights into the company’s operational effectiveness and financial health, as well as how it keeps its position as the industry leader. These statements can be examined to learn more about the company’s growth and investment strategies in addition to its revenue sources and profitability.

At the heart of Apple’s financial prowess lies its income statement, a document that encapsulates the company’s revenue, expenses, and net income over a specific period.

For the fiscal year 2023, Apple reported a revenue of $394.3 billion, a slight increase from the previous year despite global economic uncertainties. This growth is primarily driven by strong sales of its flagship products, including the iPhone, Mac, and services segment, which encompasses the App Store, Apple Music, and iCloud. The diversification of revenue sources underscores Apple’s resilience and adaptability in a rapidly changing market.

The cost of goods sold (COGS) and operating expenses are crucial components of the income statement that impact Apple’s profitability. In 2023, Apple’s COGS was approximately $224.5 billion, reflecting the costs associated with manufacturing and distributing its products. Despite increasing component prices and supply chain challenges, Apple has managed to maintain healthy profit margins by leveraging its scale and negotiating power. Operating expenses, including research and development (R&D) and selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) expenses, amounted to $47.5 billion. Apple’s significant investment in R&D, which was $27.5 billion, highlights its commitment to innovation and staying ahead in the competitive tech industry.

Moving on to the balance sheet, which provides a snapshot of Apple’s assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity, we observe a robust financial position. As of September 2023, Apple’s total assets were valued at $381.8 billion, with a substantial portion held in cash and marketable securities amounting to $64.5 billion. This liquidity affords Apple flexibility in strategic acquisitions, stock buybacks, and dividend payments. Total liabilities stood at $287.9 billion, including long-term debt of $104.8 billion. While the debt level is significant, Apple’s strong cash flow generation and creditworthiness mitigate potential risks associated with its debt obligations.

Shareholders’ equity, representing the residual interest in the assets of the company after deducting liabilities, was $93.9 billion in 2023. This figure reflects Apple’s robust profitability and efficient capital management, providing confidence to investors regarding the company’s financial stability and future growth prospects. The balance sheet also highlights Apple’s efficient inventory management and receivables collection, which contribute to its operational efficiency.

The cash flow statement, another critical component of Apple’s financial statements, offers insights into the company’s cash generation and usage. In 2023, Apple generated $104.2 billion in operating cash flow, underscoring its ability to convert sales into cash effectively. This strong cash flow from operations enables Apple to reinvest in its business, return capital to shareholders, and maintain a healthy balance sheet. Capital expenditures, primarily for manufacturing facilities, retail stores, and data centers, amounted to $12.3 billion. Despite these significant outlays, Apple’s free cash flow remained robust, reflecting its operational efficiency and financial discipline.

Investing activities, which include acquisitions, sales of marketable securities, and other investments, resulted in a net outflow of $15.6 billion. Apple’s strategic acquisitions, such as those in artificial intelligence and augmented reality, aim to bolster its technological capabilities and product offerings. Financing activities, reflecting changes in debt and equity, saw a net outflow of $87.9 billion, primarily due to share repurchases and dividend payments. Apple’s aggressive stock buyback program, funded by its substantial cash reserves, underscores its commitment to returning value to shareholders.

In conclusion, Apple’s financial statements for 2023 depict a company that is not only financially robust but also strategically positioned for continued growth and innovation. The income statement reveals a diverse and resilient revenue base, the balance sheet highlights a strong liquidity position and efficient capital management, and the cash flow statement underscores the company’s ability to generate substantial cash from operations.

Through meticulous financial management and a steadfast focus on innovation, Apple continues to reinforce its standing as a global technology leader, delivering value to its shareholders while navigating the complexities of the modern business landscape.

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What Is Project 2025, and Why Is Trump Disavowing It?

The Biden campaign has attacked Donald J. Trump’s ties to the conservative policy plan that would amass power in the executive branch, though it is not his official platform.

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Kevin Roberts, wearing a dark suit and blue tie and speaking into a microphone at a lectern. The lectern says, “National Religious Broadcasters, nrb.org.”

By Simon J. Levien

Donald J. Trump has gone to great lengths to distance himself from Project 2025, a set of conservative policy proposals for a future Republican administration that has outraged Democrats. He has claimed he knows nothing about it or the people involved in creating it.

Mr. Trump himself was not behind the project. But some of his allies were.

The document, its origins and the interplay between it and the Trump campaign have made for one of the most hotly debated questions of the 2024 race.

Here is what to know about Project 2025, and who is behind it.

What is Project 2025?

Project 2025 was spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation and like-minded conservative groups before Mr. Trump officially entered the 2024 race. The Heritage Foundation is a think tank that has shaped the personnel and policies of Republican administrations since the Reagan presidency.

The project was intended as a buffet of options for the Trump administration or any other Republican presidency. It’s the latest installment in the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership series, which has compiled conservative policy proposals every few years since 1981. But no previous study has been as sweeping in its recommendations — or as widely discussed.

Kevin Roberts, the head of the Heritage Foundation, which began putting together the latest document in 2022, said he thought the American government would embrace a more conservative era, one that he hoped Republicans would usher in.

“We are in the process of the second American Revolution,” Mr. Roberts said on Real America’s Voice, a right-wing cable channel, in early July, adding pointedly that the revolt “will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

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