health

Glued to our screens, and trying to get unstuck

Technology overuse has emerged as a modern disease

By CNN Staff

Published August 1, 2018

According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults say they go online "almost constantly."

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Technology overuse has emerged as a modern disease and is beginning to be classified as such. The World Health Organization classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition.

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Beyond that, experts say technology overuse has the potential to stunt growth and development of social skills, mask mental illness and isolate us in an increasingly connected world.

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Coping with technology

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At Summerland, a summer camp for kids with technology overuse habits, director Mike Bishop, sees a pattern in kids ages 10 to 18.

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  • Kids are anxious without their phones, computers and other devices

  • Being disconnected makes them grumpy, which in turn gives way to resentment

  • Bishop calls these "withdrawal effects" and said they tend to peak after roughly a week without technology

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And it's not just teens...

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Game Quitters, the largest support community for people with video game addictions, is 90% male and roughly half of the group's tens of thousands of members meet the criteria for anxiety, depression or a mood disorder, says its founder, Cam Adair.

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More than a coping mechanism

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To just dismiss gaming as 'well, everyone's just gaming because they're depressed and anxious' completely negates the fact that so many of them are gaming because it's an opportunity to feel a new sense of identity, it's an opportunity to feel measurable progress in life; it's a way that they get instant gratification, and the desire to escape is only one of a multitude of reasons why they play.

Cam Adair

Founder of Game Quitters

The game-maker's playbook

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Games and apps are designed to get you hooked. Some design principles take pages from the gambling industry's playbook, according to Gabe Zichermann, a designer.

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Common Techniques

  • Hook loops: Draws users back to a platform with notifications that are reinforcing. i.e. @JaneDoe123 liked your photo

  • Loot boxes: A kind of mystery box that can be purchased with fake or real money. Its contents could range from a very basic item to a rare one, and the only way to find out is to open it

Common Techniques (cont.)

  • Behavior modification: Rewards or incentives to modify users' behavior. i.e. streaks in Snapchat

  • Attention testing: A way social media platforms can track and maximize a user's time spent logged onto their sites. The information then informs algorithms on how to increase engagement

Solutions in self-regulating

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Anyone with an iPhone 5S and later can access iOS 12. It includes a suite of features designed to track your phone usage and help you cut down on screen time.

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