Technology Dependency in Children

Technology Dependency in Children

Table of Contents

Introduction

Technology dependency is an extremely relevant topic that is only becoming more prevalent as innovations are made. There are two meanings of this phrase and it’s important to be able to distinguish the difference. While our world is becoming increasingly more technological, there are ways screen use can be managed and balance can be achieved. Let’s discuss the two differences in technology dependency and ways it can be seen in children.

Types of Technology Dependency

The first meaning of technology dependency is when a child requires medical equipment in their daily lives.1 This could include different devices and exists on a large spectrum. The second meaning stems from when children rely on technology to function throughout their daily lives.2 This can have negative effects and is not considered to be a healthy way of living. Multiple areas of life can be impacted by a child’s technology dependence.

 

Being able to recognize dependency signs and be aware of warnings is an important part of making sure a child’s technology use is staying within healthy boundaries. Technology dependency can present itself through nomophobia and can carry on throughout adolescence and adult life. Being able to use technology healthily is extremely important in maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

The Connection Between Technology Use and Mental Health Conditions

Technology use has been proven to impact mental health. Physical and mental health are extremely important, so being aware of a child’s technology use and how it is impacting their mental health is an excellent way to watch out for warning signs. There has been a connection identified between social media and depression.3

Self-Esteem and Technology

When comparing social media and rates of depression, it’s important to note that there are many factors at play. In many cases, it is not simply technology use, but the combination of comparison, self-esteem, perfectionism, and many other things that social media often heightens.4 Balancing technology use time is an excellent way to encourage positive mental health and allow children to develop their sense of who they are without unnecessary pressure from technology.

Technology and Anxiety

Just as with depression, there is cause to believe anxiety can be increased by technology use. For some, technology can be a tool used to help manage anxiety. Technology can connect an individual with therapists and other resources to help with a variety of struggles. For others, technology can have negative impacts. In most cases, technology and its counterparts do not bring on anxiety but increase the anxiety already present. This is important to note, as those with anxiety may be more likely to experience further extremes when engaging with technology.

Multi-Tasking with Technology

Our fast-paced and productivity-focused society often trains children to think that multitasking is not only healthy but the preferred method of working. However, some evidence is beginning to show that multitasking may be unhealthy, causing more harm than good. Using technology requires an extreme amount of multitasking; most social media requires one to read captions, look at pictures, write comments, and watch live streams. This high amount of functioning is often paired with an internal dialogue that may involve self-questioning, judgment, comparison, and many other things.

 

If you’re texting, watching, and listening all at the same time, you might be using valuable cognitive space that could be spent better somewhere else. Remember, the brain can only handle so much and has a certain amount of processing ability. When a child is asked to multitask through the use of technology, it may be causing stress and having harmful effects.

Technology and the Brain

Children are at a unique stage when their brain is continuing to develop and new pathways are continually being built. This makes it especially important that they don’t develop an addiction during the childhood years. Limiting technology use and decreasing the chances of dependency is an important factor in encouraging healthy cognitive development.

Nomophobia

Nomophobia is “the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.” The diagnosis was added to the DSM-VI and is a medically recognized fear. This is a huge step, as it allows for diagnosing and treatment options that might not otherwise be recognized. Many different psychological factors come along with this diagnosis.

 

Low self-esteem, impulsiveness, and sensation-seeking can all be associated with a nomophobia diagnosis. Self-esteem issues are often connected with technology use and access to social media networks. Unfortunately, social media encourages comparison and can lead to the seeking of unattainable goals. Photo modifying apps and the distortions they produce create unrealistic images that are projected onto our screens every single day, many times leading to low self-esteem. Repeatedly seeing those images can subconsciously alter an individual’s opinion of themselves or who they want to be. Though nomophobia is not directly associated with comparison and low self-esteem, it is one of the impacts that can come from mobile device dependency.

Impulsivity

Another issue that technology dependency presents is impulsivity. Addiction and impulsivity tend to go hand in hand in many cases. Because technology is so ready and available to many people, the need to wait or be patient is often eliminated. The internet presents knowledge and information immediately upon request, which can be a positive thing in many situations. However, it also encourages impulsivity and allows for decisions to be made extremely fast, in terms of what is sent or saved onto a device.

Technology Dependence Symptoms

The symptoms of technology dependence are similar to those that can occur with many addictions. Nervousness, anxiety, and anguish can all result from not having access to a phone. These emotions can impair the ability to think about anything else or perform tasks.

 

Physical symptoms, such as perspiration and trembling, can also result from technology dependence. This shows how drastic the effects can be, as the symptoms can be both mentally and physically impactful.

 

If they are easily bothered or angered without a device, it may point to a dependence becoming more evident. In these situations, it’s important to realize there is a deeper situation at hand and respond with compassion and understanding.

The Effect of Video Games

Besides social media, there are other areas of technology that can have incredibly large impacts on children. Video games are becoming more and more prevalent. When discussing the impact of video games, it’s important to bring up sensation-seeking tendencies. If a child has an intense experience playing a video game, they may want to return to the game to get that same feeling. The feelings aren’t always positive, as sometimes they can elicit fear or anger, while others may bring happiness. Sensation-seeking through technology can be dangerous, leading to dependency and unhealthy patterns.

When Screens Become Unhealthy

Those who are extroverted and introverted can both find solace in technology. Extroverted individuals can use it to reach out to others and make new connections that don’t rely on distance or location. Introverted individuals, on the other hand, can use technology as a substitution for human contact. Neither of these uses is inherently unhealthy, it’s when they are taken to an extreme that technology dependency should be watched for. If an individual chooses to only see other humans through a screen or begins fearing in-person contact, they have most likely developed a technology dependency.

Treating Technology Dependence

If you have a child that is suffering from technology dependence, know that there are options and treatments available. Reaching out to your child’s pediatrician is an excellent step. They can recommend certain treatments and point you in the right direction. Working with a medical provider or specialist can also provide you with greater clarity and individual attention.

Impulsivity

Another issue that technology dependency presents is impulsivity. Addiction and impulsivity tend to go hand in hand in many cases. Because technology is so ready and available to many people, the need to wait or be patient is often eliminated. The internet presents knowledge and information immediately upon request, which can be a positive thing in many situations. However, it also encourages impulsivity and allows for decisions to be made extremely fast, in terms of what is sent or saved onto a device.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is an excellent option. Through this method, a mental health professional can work to isolate the problem and provide a roadmap to recovery. It’s extremely important to feel supported and have resources available.

Medications

There are also medications, such as clonazepam and tranylcypromine, that may be prescribed for an individual experiencing the symptoms associated with technology dependency. Beginning a new medication is a big decision, so be sure you have all the facts and are aware of any possible side effects or drug interactions. Talk to your doctor about whether or not they think clonazepam, or a similar medication, might be right for you.

Tips to Avoid Technology Dependence

Many things can be done to prevent technology dependence in children. One of the most important things is to teach balance. Creating a healthy balance between technology and screen-free time is important in shaping their awareness of what is healthy and what boundaries shouldn’t be crossed.

Stress Management

Along with balance comes stress management. People may turn to technology during times of stress, as it can be a distraction from the present moment. Managing stress in healthy, productive ways can make an individual less tempted to turn to an unhealthy method of stress management, such as technology.

Interact with your Community

Technology can be a substitute for human interaction. One of the best ways to remedy this is to interact with your community and be surrounded by those you care about. Having time away from technology can help you recenter and feel grounded. Technology is important but having a community to support you can relieve some of the predispositions to turn to a screen.

Learn the Symptoms

Learning the symptoms of technology dependency can help you watch for the warning signs and get help if needed. If you or someone you know is struggling, there are options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medications such as clonazepam. Technology dependency should be taken seriously and validated for the diagnosis it is. Maintaining balance and creating a healthy lifestyle is key in being able to use technology responsibly and to your benefit.