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."


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.


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.


  • 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...


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


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.