Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Technology and Health Risk

Technology is proliferating our world.  It has many great uses and it has made our lives easier in many ways; however, it can cause significant health problems if it not used within moderation.  These problems can affect both children, teens and adults, but technology overuse can be more harmful to developing brains.

Technology Statistics

u  56% of children 8-12 years old have cell phones; all but 4% have data phones (National Consumers League, 2012).
u  72% of children 8 and under have used a mobile device for a media activity
u  38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device
u  Children average 7.5 hours of entertainment technology time per day (American College of Pediatricians, 2014)

As of March 2013
u  78% of American teens have a cell phone (98% of adults ages 18-29)
u  47% of American teens have a smart phone
u  32% of American teens own an e-reader
u  23% of American teens own a tablet computer
u  74% use their phones to surf online
u  93% of teens have a computer or access to one(Pew Research Internet Project)
u  94% of teens were on Facebook
u  91% had posted a personal photo
u  92% posted their real name
u  75% of all teens text with 60 texts per day being the median number of texts in a day
u  Many teens sleep with their phones(Pew Internet Research Teenage Fact Sheet)

Technology Disparities
u  In 2013 access to smart phones for low income families from 27% in 2011 to 51%
u  Access to high speed internet increased 4% from 42% to 46%
u  Tablet ownership has increased from 2% in 2011 to 20% in 2013
u  In 2011 only 22% of lower income children had ever used a mobile device; in 2013 65% have done so.
u  In 2013 35% of lower income parents had downloaded apps for their children (Common Sense Media, 2013)

Technology’s Effect on Physical Health
u  Cognitive and neural functioning (Brain Health)
u  So much has yet to be determined—particularly about students who begin technology interactive in infancy
u  Young brains are more malleable than adult brains
u  Piaget constructivist theories: Piaget noted adaptation to environment is a biological function.  This includes assimilation and accommodation which directly involve the nervous system of a child.  Piaget felt the development of individual children should not be artificially “rushed (Chirico, 1997).
u  In 1989 Hyson, Hirsch-Pasek & Rescorla (Academic Environments in Early Childhood: Challenge of Pressure) studied 4 year olds and taught a control and experimental group academic and non-academic concepts.  The academic group overwhelmingly had less creativity which is an important component of problem solving later on. There were no difference in intelligence. This is an example that changes in brain development may in fact be detrimental in some other way.  When stimulus is presented at the wrong time or in an inappropriate manner, the neural connections may accommodate in a non-preferred way.  This is thought to be one of the causes of increases in attention deficit disorder. Media and technology can also do this.  Primarily studies have been on excessive television usage which negatively affect health and academic performance.  However, students engaged with technology do not engage in physical play as their ancestors did.  Some researchers feel this lack of interaction in the physical environment can be negative.
u  Potential Negative Effects
u  Much of the research in children and technology at young ages is based on television viewing
u  Negative Effect on Enterprise skills in preschoolers:  Lilliard and Peterson (2011) in Pediatrics found just 9 minutes of viewing something fast-paces (such as a video game) for 9 minutes caused immediate negative effects on executive function tasks (such as delay of gratification and building a tower).
u  Technology is being used to entertain toddlers (such as games on a Smartphone).
u  2010  Attention Disorders: Baveliar, Green and Dye (2014) In Neuron; American College of Pediatricians noted technology causes long-term changes in behavior/brain function.  However this can be positive or negative depending on what the stimulator is.
u  Excessive multi-tasking can impact attention
u  -7 studies have shown language delays in infants exposed to excessive technology  (Strasburger et al., 2010)

Additional Negative Effects
u  Sleep disorders
u  Disordered eating
u  Tendonitis in the thumb
u  Back/Neck problems
u  Generalized health complaints (technology overload)
u  Texting when driving a car (more accidents)
u  Lack of Activity
u  Obesity (has doubled)
u  Diabetes
u  Early Onset Heart Disease
u  Decreased motor development
u  Lack of Interaction Within their Environment
u  Decreased sensory stimulation
u  Failure to achieve child development milestone (contributing cause)
u  Increased risk of smoking due to media exposure
u  Drug and alcohol abuse
u  Early sexual activity (due to exposure to media, predators, sexting, etc.)

Positive Social and Emotional Effects of Technology
u  Computer/internet access in the home can enhance academic achievement and happiness
u  Exposure to educational media at a young age has positive effects (science-based versus quasi educational); in order to be effective they must elicit direct participation and should not be passive
u  Increases feeling of social connectedness which can positively impact well-being (when done with friends and not strangers) (Strasburger et al., 2010).

Negative Social and Emotional Effects
u  Technology stress: Mental Overload (Berntsson, 2000; Haugland, Wold, Stevenson, Aaoroe & Woynarowska, 2001; Rimpela et al., 2004) includes isconnecting people from nature, play and people.
u  Lack of social boundaries
u  Lack of sexual boundaries
u  Lack of social skills
u  Decreased sense of time
u  Lack of future thinking/decreased academic performance
u  Multi-tasking with negative effect on performance
u  Increase impulsivity (Park & Hyun, 2014)
u  Isolation/loneliness
u  Depression/lack of self-esteem
u  Lack of privacy
u  An altered sense of reality
u  Increased aggression
u  Decreased well-being

Technology Addiction
u  Under consideration for inclusion in DSM V
u  Knows an Internet Addiction Disorder
u  Prevalence between 0.3 and 38%
u  China and Korea have id’ed it as a significant public health threat(Cash, Rae, Steel & Winkler, 2012; Cao & Su, 2014; Leung & Lee, 2011))
u  Similar to a gambling addiction in the way it is viewed and treated
u  Boys are more prevalence than girls (Tang et al., 2014)
u  Technology addiction treatment centers popping up through Asia
u  Includes computer addiction, Internet dependence, compulsive Internet use, pathological internet use, problematic internet use.  The anonymity factor impacts behavior and causes people to do what they might not do otherwise
u  Activated pleasure pathway in brain

4 Components of Technology Addiction
u  Excessive internet use with a loss of a sense of time and neglect of basic drives
u  Withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension and/or depression when the computer is not accessible
u  Needing better equipment, software, hours of use
u  Negative repercussions include arguments, lying, poor achievement and social isolation (Block, 2008)

  • American Academy of Pediatricians. (2014, February).  The media, children and adolescents.  Retrieved from
  • Block, J. J. (2008). Issues for DSM-V:iInternet Addiction. American  Journal of  Psychiatry, 165, 306-307.
  • Cash, H. Rae, C.D., Steel, A.H. & Winkler, A. (2012).  Internet addiction:  A brief summary of research and practice.  Current Psychiatry Review, 8 (4), 292-298.
  • Cawley, J. (2010, March).  The economics of childhood obesity.  Health Affairs.  Retrieved from
  • Common Sense Media.  (2013, Fall). Zero to eight:  Children’s media use in America 2013.  Retrieved at
  • Chirico, D. (1997).  Building on shifting sand:  The impact of computer use on neural and cognitive development. Donna M. Chirico. Waldorf Education Research Institute Bulletin. 2 1997: 13-19. Retrieved at
  • Health and Human Services. (2013, Nov).  Teen media use part 1:  Increasing on the move.  Retrieved from:
  • iNACOL. (2013, February).  Key K-12 online learning stats.  Retrieved at
  • Ipsos Marketing Research. (2012). One in ten (12%) parents online, around the world say their child has Been cyberbullied, 24% say they know of a child who has experienced same in their community.  Retrieved from
  • Leung, L. & Lee, P. S. N. (2011).  The influences of information literacy, internet addiction and parenting styles on internet risks.  New Media and Society, 1-21.
  • Lilliard, A. & Peterson, J.. (2011) The immediate impact of different types of televisions on young children’s executive function, 128 (4), 644-649.
  • National Consumers League.  (2012, Julu 10).  Survey:  Majority of “tweeners” now have cell phones with many parents concerned about cost
  • No (2014, September 18).  Cyber bullying statistics 2014.  Retrieved at
  • OFCOM. (2013, October 3).  Children and parents:  Media use and attitudes report.  Retrieved from
  • Park, C. J. & Hyun, J. S. (2014).  Internet literacy vs. technology addiction:  Relationship analysis with time perspectives of secondary school students.  Advanced Science and Technology Letters, 59, 23-26.
  • Pew Research Internet Project.  (2012, September).  Teens fact sheet.  Retrieved at
  • Strasburger, V. Jordan, A.B. & Donnerstein, D. (2010, March 1).  Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 125(4), 756-767.
  • Tang, J., Yu, Y., Du, Y., Ma, Y., Zhang, D., & Wang, J. (2014). Prevalence of internet addiction and its association with stressful life events and psychological symptoms among adolescent internet users. Addictive Behaviors, 39(3), 744-747.
  • U.S Department of Justice. (2013)  Fact and statistics:  Raising awareness about sexual abuse.  Retrieved at

Contributed by Dr. Colleen Halupa, Adjunct Faculty, Saint Joseph's College

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