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Technology has become essential to workplace functionality and personal productivity, but while the long hours spent glued to our tech during the workday are a necessity, the time we spend at home with our personal devices is definitely voluntary. However, more and more people - children especially - are finding it harder to let their devices power down.
This is the hallmark of technology addiction, or Internet addiction disorder (IAD). While it isn’t yet officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), IAD caught the attention of health professionals in the 1990s and 2013 saw the addition of Internet Use Gaming Disorder to the DSM-5.
What Makes IAD a Problem
Many of the features and trends that are widely taken for granted in applications today - autoplay, in-app purchases, and even notifications - are actually undermining our self-control. Instead of being able to set down the device and move on to something else, these tactics have made it so that we feel compelled to compulsively check these devices.
After all, you never know what you may miss if you don’t check right now.
Of course, needing to use technology for work and being addicted to technology are two very different things, but that doesn’t change the fact that children and adults alike have increasingly presented the warning signs of this addiction in their personal lives. That’s right - as much as the attachment to technology has stereotypically been framed as a young person’s problem, it can affect adults just as easily.
In a poll, 66 percent of parents felt that their teens were investing too much time into using their mobile device. No real surprise there, right? However, the same poll measured that 54 percent of children believed that their parents were checking their own devices too frequently as well.
Symptoms of IAD
IAD has a few warning signs and symptoms that present themselves in the behavior and mood of the person affected. Repeatedly checking for incoming text messages or updates and excessive social media use are common behaviors to keep an eye out for in your loved ones, and possibly in yourself.
Those afflicted with IAD also frequently feel euphoric while using their technology, and when they aren’t, often feel restless. IAD sufferers are prone to social withdrawal and experience diminished interest in activities not centered around a gadget. Some schools have even implemented technology fasts, where students have gone without their precious devices for a week. Teachers have noted that these students often exhibit physical symptoms of anxiety while their devices aren’t accessible. Students will reach for a device that isn’t there, all the while shaking and sweating.
How to Reduce Addictive Tactics
Above, we mentioned how many modern applications have features that encourage this kind of pervasive presence and dependence. To avoid these affects, it is probably best that these features are deactivated for non-essential applications.
Notifications are some of the biggest culprits of encouraging persistent use, so if the information isn’t essential to your professional or personal life, you don’t need an app trying to get your attention. Ask yourself: do you really need to be informed that your energy has been refilled in that mobile game you play more than you should? At the very least, using the mute notifications feature will help keep your attention from being pulled away when it shouldn’t be.
Many of the same apps that spam you with notifications are also the ones that encourage users to make those tempting in-app purchases that give the user an edge, or more frequently, extend the amount of time you can use the app before you have to wait again. This is most common in the free versions of these applications, so if you insist on using the app, it is more economical in the long run to just bite the bullet and pay for the app itself.
What piece of technology can you not bear to be without? Share it with us in the comments.