Digital health tools provide both opportunities and challenges to those living with mental illness. Promising features of such tools include lowering barriers to treatment and increasing accessibility to mental health services.
However, some risks remain: cyberbullying and online harassment as well as addiction. Furthermore, overuse of digital devices may disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
1. Excessive Screen Time
Many individuals spend over eight hours per day watching screen media, which can negatively impact mood, cognitive function and sleep patterns. People may develop FOMO (fear of missing out), depression and anxiety as a result. Social media often serves as a platform for comparison or self-presentation that leads to feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem – this may also contribute to cyberbullying or harassment online.
Researchers have recently demonstrated that excessive screen time is associated with worse mental health for adolescent boys and girls. Seven hours or more a day spent looking at screens is associated with reduced well-being; high screen users tend to exhibit decreased curiosity, have more difficulty controlling emotions, and are twice as likely to receive an anxiety/depression diagnosis than non-users.
Studies have also demonstrated that too much screen time can cause structural changes in the brain, particularly its frontal lobe which regulates emotions and thus decreases attention, memory and impulse control.
2. Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
Bullying is not a new phenomenon and takes various forms, from physical attacks and verbal abuse, to social embarrassment and harassment online. With the internet’s rise came cyberbullying – where someone is targeted with words, pictures and videos or their personal data shared online in an attempt to harm someone negatively – this often includes posting personal details like addresses, credit card numbers or phone numbers online in an effort to cause distress for another.
Cyber bullying can contribute to depression and other forms of mental illness by making victims feel worthless and creating negative body images.
Communication between parent and children about cyber bullying is crucial, both to help prepare them and to assist with resilience when it does occur. Parents may advise their child not to use computers and phones after being bullied – although this approach could further isolate them and create more issues than before.
3. Digital Addiction
Internet addiction may not be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), yet many psychologists and mental health professionals are witnessing a growing trend among teenagers who exhibit symptoms. Just like other addictive substances or behaviors, compulsive online usage can have devastating repercussions for one’s mental wellbeing.
Internet addiction may result from other psychiatric issues such as social anxiety or impulse control issues; or it can arise as a consequence of certain computer activities like gambling or stock trading, among others.
Parents should ensure there are tech-free zones in their house and actively encourage their children to take breaks from technology. Set reasonable goals while remaining patient when children resist turning off devices – an overall balanced relationship with technology should result. If self-help strategies don’t seem effective enough, therapists or counselors who specialize in treating digital addiction may provide professional help.
4. Lack of Real-World Connections
Many people feel detached from others due to technology and social media use, leading to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. If this sounds familiar to you, speak to your healthcare provider or therapist immediately in order to assess whether this could be related to mental illness.
Digital tools offer many resources to assist a person’s mental wellbeing, such as reliable apps that specialise in coaching or offering therapy guidance, self-help posts on social media platforms like Facebook and self-help posts on YouTube. Unfortunately, the internet also hosts plenty of information that might not necessarily be credible or beneficial; therefore it is vitally important that readers evaluate content carefully online in order to avoid sites known for spreading harmful messages.
Digital technology can have either a positive or negative effect on our lives depending on its implementation, management and regulation. To make sure the benefits outweigh risks – particularly among those who may have limited opportunities in life.