There are a number of problems associated with technology addiction:
1. Chronic Multitasking: An experiment at Stanford University revealed that heavy media multitaskers were less efficient, had difficulty ignoring irrelevant information and became faster but sloppier with work. Chronic stress from multitasking can also make your brain’s memory centre more vulnerable to damage.
2. Diminished Social Skills: The addicted person “drifts away from fundamental social skills, such as reading facial expressions or grasping the emotional context of a subtle gesture” – Dr. Gary Small.
3. Techno-Brain Burnout: This term describes the fatigued, foggy, irritable and distracted feeling you get when you’ve spent hours in front of a screen. This is because your brain alerts your adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Over time this can impair the areas of your brain that control thought and mood.
In iBrain, Dr. Gary Small includes this self-assessment so you can gauge your level of technology addiction. Answer each question and give yourself a score from 1 to 7 based on this scale. 1-2 USUALLY, 3-5 SOMETIMES, 6-7 RARELY:
• Do you snap at people when they interrupt you while you're online or using a mobile device?
• Do you use technology to escape uncomfortable feelings or situations in your life?
• Does the time you spend engaged in tech-related activities interfere with your work or social life?
• Are you defensive or secretive about your computer gaming or other tech-based activities?
• Do people complain about the time you spend on the Internet or using other technology?
If you score ABOVE 25 you are not a tech addict. 15 TO 25 you show addictive tendencies. BELOW 15 you just might be hooked
What can you do if you are addicted to technology?
1. Learn to live for the moment. In other words, resist the temptation to tweet or update your Facebook status while you’re enjoying something. Do it afterwards. And remember, not every random thought that enters your head needs to be uploaded onto social media.
2. Create quiet moments. Have times when all screens and mobile devices are turned off. Don’t take phones into meetings, switch them off while having dinner or catching up with friends, turn off alerts and alarms and ban screens from the bedroom.
3. Live a healthy lifestyle. This includes at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day; minimising stress by staying connected with family and friends; eating a brain healthy diet (fish, fruits, vegetables), and balancing online time with offline time. Which reminds me, I think it is almost time for me to sign off.
Supplement: Technology Addiction in Children
Technology addiction is not just an adult problem either. One in five Aussie kids spend so much time surfing the Internet that they miss out on meals and sleep. Edith Cowan University researchers have revealed that "excessive internet use" is twice as common in Australian children as British kids. More than half the children confessed they waste so much time online that they "have spent less time” than they should have with family, friends or doing homework. Sixty per cent said they had caught themselves surfing when they were "not really interested". And half "felt bothered" when they could not get online.
Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg advises parents to ban all "screens" – from TVs to computers, tablets and smartphones – from children's bedrooms, and no screen time for children younger than two. KICK the kids outside – for every hour in front of a screen, they should spend an hour in active play. Make sure your kids get sufficient sleep.