A decade of digital dependency

The average person in the UK spends more than a day a week online, according to “A decade of digital dependency”,
a new report released by Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK.

According to the report, people in the UK spend on average online  24 hours a week, twice as long as 10 years ago, with one in five of all adults spending as much as 40 hours a week.

This is the result of the rise in use by those aged 16 to 24, who average 34.3 hours a week on the internet. For the first time, women are spending more time online than men. They spend half an hour a week longer online than men of the same age.

Ofcom associates the surge in time online to the rise of smartphones, now used by 78 percent of the population compared with just 17 percent in 2008, when the first iPhone was launched.

Fifteen percent said smartphones made them feel they were always at work, 54 percent admitted they interrupted face-to-face conversations with friends and family and 43 percent admitted spending too much time online.

More than a third felt stressed and “cut off” without their phone and 29 percent “lost without it”  and one in 10 said taking a break from their phone was “liberating” or made them more productive.

 

Reactions to be unable to connect to the Internet

(graphics: ofcom.org.uk)

Almost half of adults said they would miss it more than TV (28 percent) and a desktop or laptop computer (10 percent), the opposite of ten years ago, when 52 percent said the TV was more important than the mobile phone (13 percent). Among 16 to 24-year-olds, 72 percent now say the smartphone is the device they would miss most.

Social media addiction increases the risk of ADHD

Nonstop notifications from social media websited cause young people to have problems to concentrate for long periods of time, researchers said.

“More frequent use of digital media may be associated with development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms,” said Professor of Preventative Medicine, Adam Leventhal of University of Southern California, in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Further research is needed to see whether the association is caused by social media alone but scientists suggested that the distraction and instant gratification  could aggravate the disorder.

The scientists asked 2,800 15 and 16-year-olds at 10 different schools in Los Angeles County to fill out surveys about ADHD symptoms and their social media use.

The ADHD survey asked students to evaluate whether they related to statements like “I’m easily distracted” or “I don’t listen when spoken to directly.”

The students also filled out a questionnaire ranking how often they used 14 different types of digital media, including social media sites, online games and streaming films. Students who already had ADHD symptoms were eliminated from the study. The remaining 2,600 students retook the same surveys several times over the next two years.The 495 teens who reported infrequent use of digital media had a 4.6 per cent chance of reporting ADHD symptoms. That figure almost doubled to 9.5 per cent for the 114 students who reported using seven of the 14 digital media platforms frequently.

 

Social media and gaming firms face a lawsuit for designing addictive digital products

Social media and gaming firms face a lawsuit in the UK for breaching children’s human rights. According to the lawyer who is in charge of the case, the damage caused by addictive devices to family life, from denying children sleep and a less active outdoor life to disrupting their schoolwork and mental well-being, amounts to a breach of article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The article states that ” Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence,”

The argument is that app developers design tricks are keeping children captive, rather than active, online. As a result, their autonomy and free will is being eroded, with huge consequences for their physical and mental development. Snapchat and Facebook denied they designed their products to be addictive and encourage people to develop positive and meaningful relationships off as well as online.