The American actress Dakota Johnson, followed by 1.5 million people on Twitter, decided to restrain her activity on social networks because, as she says, it gave her the impression of being exploited. This impression of the Internet sphere is adopted by more and more public figures. It is everywhere.
Screens offer unprecedented help and abundance that we could not live without, but they also are the witnesses of every moment as well as a source of entertainment and unlimited communication. So why should you be concerned?
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Why Can the Internet Be Harmful?
When the Internet use turns into addiction, this has harmful consequences for the body and the mind: hindering the psychomotor, social and even bone-related development of children, causing the increased risk of myopia, obesity, sleep disorders, mood disruptions, attentions skills’ impairments and social perils of all kinds like tendency towards risky behavior.
It all depends on why, when, and how we use our smartphones, TVs and other tablets.The danger is real. Attractive and stimulating content, its availability at any time, causes the awakening of our most primary instincts related to danger or money: whether games, chatting or even shopping online, all the elements come together to bring out addictive behavior.
Identify Whether You Are Addicted to Video Games
Headphones screwed on the ears, mesmerized eyes on the ongoing battle between allied hordes and enemies, frantic clicks to shoot the killer: a student immersed in a game for hours causes worrying of his/her parents. Yet playing time is not necessarily the main problem. Online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft contain time-consuming game constraints. The disturbing signals are rather to be observed on a degradation of the social or academic life of the young person.
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There is no consensus today when to make a diagnosis of addiction to video games, but consulting a doctor can solve such a situation. It can happen that parents are worried about a phase that will prove to be not so serious. The key is often to build the rules of life within the family. Sometimes, the game addiction masks anxiety disorders or depression that must be absolutely supported, diagnosed and treated.
The experts still struggle to define the Internet addiction: the time spent on the Internet is not the only element allowing to speak about addiction. Doctors are dealing with a complex, new phenomenon, involving a multitude of factors, consequences, intermingled with cultural differences on the use of screens.
So, what must serve as an alert is above all the suffering of the person or the signal of the entourage, as well as the loss of functioning of the individual. Internet addiction is often accompanied by mental disorders that can sometimes be masked: depression, anxiety disorders, or drug addiction. In the US, 10% of the population would have "symptomatic" use of the Internet, and 2% would have a "problematic" use. Screens are a real disaster for people with conditions that are prone to attention disorders, procrastination, or going through a difficult period of life.
Why Is It Dangerous?
Smartphone screens constantly show SMS and notifications, the TV screen hypnotizes for hours through the excitement of feeling like a superhero or a scorer in just a few clicks: the screens have something to divert from the life and its obligations. And the phenomenon is probably reinforced by biological factors: scientists suggest that the sensations conveyed by the screens activate the biological circuits of the reward, as would any drug. It is obvious that online games or chats provide us with an immediate excitement and reward that our everyday tasks do not provide us with. Doctors are welcoming more and more people who feel lost in their daily lives.
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Influence on Health
Please note that awareness is urgent. Some figures: two hours of television a day increase the risk of diabetes and obesity by about 20%, cardiovascular disease by 15%, and premature death by 13%. These rates increase with each additional hour.Not to mention the devastating effects on sleep, seen by all the experts. The blue light emitted by tablets and other computer screens blocks the secretion of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. As a result, the night goes on a screen that keeps us insidiously awake, the production of melatonin shifts, and exhausts us during the day.
How to solve such a problem? Ideally, get away from any screen two hours before bedtime. If this is not possible, equip them with filters through applications that deliver warmer colors to counteract blue light. Another eye phenomenon worries doctors: the increased risk of myopia. Forced to concentrate vision on nearby screens, the muscles around the lens twitch and, in the long run, can struggle to relax for distance vision. It is crucial, at least an hour a day and especially for children, to be outside to force vision from afar.
We experience the "oceanic" feeling of sharing with others what we live, what we think, and in the return, we expect something dizzying, which raises equally infinite questions about the intimacy, the presence in the world, the relationship to the world, the generational place. But the Internet does not belong to us and, to this day, there is no turning back on what we deliver from us or from others. Caution is, therefore, required.
So, what to do in front of all these dangers? If everyone can act individually, the community also has a role to play. A multidisciplinary challenge will require multidisciplinary responses involving physicians, lawyers, engineers, ethicists, and the international community as a whole. The challenge is exciting, but still immense.
No Screen Before 3 Years-Age
The challenge is huge: children are exposed to a world of extraordinary technological advances, of which they are the first followers, but they are also the most vulnerable. Increased risk of obesity proportional to the time spent in front of a screen, sleep disturbance, lack of psychomotor development due to lack of activities related to "real life," increased violent behavior after playing online games before the age required, bone health problems due to a lack of physical activity: the list is long.
Doctors recommend allowing no screens before the age of 3, and no more than two hours a day thereafter. How to do that? By assuming the role of parent, without using screens as a babysitter. To grow well, children need attention, social interaction and boundaries. Limit the time of use, remove any screen two hours before bedtime, maintain control over the contents and organize rules of living assumed, but discussed with the family.
Smartphone Use and Studying Process
The passion that younger people have for the new communication tools may not be safe. It is usually sufficient to use a smartphone on a daily basis to estimate what the addiction may be. Just observe the compulsive behavior with these communication tools to ask some serious questions. You can begin with the impact of the use of this technology on the psychic balance. There is some positive impact (openness to the world, mastery of "texting" writing with one or more fingertips, etc.) but there are also negative, first and foremost the fact that it is a new, massive and contagious form of behavioral addiction.
A team of researchers from the American University of Ken State (Ohio) has chosen to study one aspect of this excessively rapid change in adolescent behavior. Their question was whether the growing use of smartphones by adolescents is associated with measurable results in terms of quality of life, social success and, more generally, the well-being of young people. The latter would have the greatest interest: the more frequent the use of the smartphone, the more the user's anxiety increases and the more his/her satisfaction with the quality of life decreases.
Academic Results Worsen
These researchers conducted their work with 496 students-volunteers. The daily use of their smartphones has been measured. Each student also took tests to assess their level of anxiety and satisfaction with their life. Finally, the researchers were able to analyze all these data and academic results of these same students.
The analysis has shown that the use of the smartphone and texting SMS are negatively correlated with the criteria of academic success. On the other hand, they are positively correlated with anxiety. However, it is also established that statistically school success is inversely associated with the different manifestations of anxiety. The results thus establish, with a high degree of statistical significance, that the increase in the use of smartphones is inversely proportional to well-being and academic performance.
These data must be placed in the changing technological context that makes the functional differences between today's smartphones and traditional computers fade away faster and faster. A context that also sees the speed of connection and the range of services and networks increase at a very fast pace. All these elements leave us fearing an increase in the symptoms of addiction.
An investigation established that three out of four teenagers put their mobile phone at night under their pillows. The authors concluded that young people need to be taught how to protect themselves from the possible organic impacts of this new technology. Obviously, the possible intellectual and psychological impacts should also today be taken into account.
Computer Games Addiction: Real Disease
The World Health Organization announced that computer games addiction would be included in the eleventh edition of the World Classification of Diseases to be released by the summer of 2018, after years of debate about whether or not there is a video game addiction. But that does not concern the majority of users that sometimes have certainly intense, but simple signs of a passion for gaming.
Video game disorder is described as "a behavior related to the practice of video games or digital games, which is characterized by a loss of control over play, an increased focus on gaming to the point that it takes precedence over other areas of interest and daily activities, and the continuation or increasing practice of gambling despite damaging repercussions." To make the diagnosis, doctors specify that this behavior must cause "significant alteration" of the player's activities (personal, family, professional), and persist for at least 12 months.
Experts agree at least on two points: not all players are at risk of developing a video game disorder, and all games do not lead to a disorder. Although more girls enter the gaming world, problem behaviors affect more boys. These are often young people with high potential, with a profile of competitor, who may have difficulty managing negative emotions. If adolescence is a risk period, it does not mean that it does not concern adults. Doctors have seen patients of all ages, up to 70 years. Besides, those who play online are in danger the most. Massive multiplayer online role-playing games are, thus, the games most frequently associated with requests for support.
People who play online can say something like "But I cannot stop, I have responsibilities. When I log in at night, 200 people are waiting for my orders." They experience an exhilarating feeling that can fuel problematic behavior in a vulnerable player. The design of some games can also cause risky behaviors.
Treatment of Game Addiction
Supporting addicted gamers requires a good knowledge of the video game world, in order to better communicate, establish an accurate diagnosis and above all offer appropriate support. There are similarities between video game disorder and addictions with any substance.
In particular, both disrupt the reward system, but the support is different. Abstinence is not an option as a viable therapeutic goal; doctors do not stop their patients from playing. They help them manage their gaming activity with a "functional" commitment in the game, that is to say without damaging repercussions for them. They also often use the video game as one of the care tools integrated into the therapy.
Such an approach reassures the patient and plays an important role in the creation of a "therapeutic alliance"with the caregivers. This approach is mainly based on psychotherapy: doctors are working on the vulnerability factor that has led to this behavior. They need to help the player achieve similar satisfaction in other ways, without negative repercussions in their lives, and reconnect them with themselves, their life goals and their relationships.