ABCs of Health, Young Journalists

ARE ELECTRONICS A NEW DRUG?

October 16, 2016
Filip Mrkic
San Issue 14 - Fall/Јесен 2018

The Impact of Smartphones and Other Consumer Electronics on Teens

Currently, around three million people use the internet in the world. In North America, 77 percent of people own smartphones, and the average teenager uses a mobile phone four hours a day. New technologies are undoubtedly useful not only for individuals, but have also advanced several important industries. Yet, because of the widespread use of electronic devices and the Internet, and because of the amount of time that modern man spends using them, we are increasingly wondering if these new technologies are safe for human health and whether they create addiction.

I think the main problem, though not the only problem, is that today Internet connection is available almost everywhere. Not too long ago, we could only use social networks and play video games on a computer, but now it's possible anywhere thanks to smartphones. Due to the fact that electronic entertainment is always at hand, most people have changed the way they spend their free time because those previous activities have suddenly become slow and boring compared to new forms of entertainment.

It's become common for users of smartphones to be hooked on social media. One of the networks thats used inappropriately is Snapchat, which differs from the others mainly in that pictures and messages are only visible for a short period of time. This is why many of my acquaintances check it every five seconds to see if they have a new message. Other social media networks do this too, but not so often. I have the impression that this anticipation causes them some kind of stress, but also a frequent (and unnecessary) disappointment if the expected message hasn’t arrived. The constant need for something to happen, and the eager anticipation of new messages, elicit effects like those created by addiction. Something similar happens with text message conversations – when a person checks his or her phone irrationally every moment, despite the fact that their phone will automatically alert him/her of the arrival of a message.

Addiction is also expressed in people who play popular video games, such as Fortnite. It belongs to a group of games called Battle Royale Shooter. This means that more people are playing on one server, where they find "weapons", and the goal is to "kill" other players/opponents. An individual or group that “survives” is considered the winner. I know a lot of people of all ages who spend a lot of time playing Fortnite. Even at school, where this game is banned and blocked, players manage by using YouTube and the so-calledTwitch stream to watch others play Fortnite. A buddy of mine plays this game for almost ten hours a day and, in essence, very rarely does he do anything else. One day he pleasantly surprised me with an invite to hang out, but I later learned that his parents had told him that he wouldn’tbe able to play the game unless he went out for at least half an hour.

If we agree that video game addiction exists, then where does it come from? Unlike Snapchat, there is no expectation here. This addiction is much more like gambling. As with gambling, the player rarely wins. In the case of Fortnite, the reason is that the number of players is large, which reduces the chances of winning. Because of this, players always want to play again, always believing that they’ll win the next game. There is constant stress, disappointment and the need to keep playing, which is why so many players spend all their free time on it.

What can be done to help addicts of the modern age? If parents put some restrictions on, or completely ban their kids from playing video games, it often doesn’t produce the expected results. Teens still find ways to use electronics despite any bans, and this can seriously damage the trust between parents and children. That’s why with such attempts there’s a danger that kids will purposely use these types of electronics even more so. The teen years are characterized by the need to have more autonomy and independence, and their reaction to such prohibitions can elicit the opposite of the intended effect.

New technologies undeniably play a valuable and useful role in today's world. Both social media and video games can be interesting and useful. The problem is when they’re used in excess, and the main danger is that people aren’t aware that they can become addicted.

One way to reduce addiction to electronicsis for society to help young people adopt other ways to spend their free time, such as reading, sports, or an interesting hobby. Another possible solution is for computer entertainment creators to strive to teach players something via these electronic activities, along with being entertaining. A good example is the Europa Universalis game, as well as some so-called historical grand strategy games, in which the player represents a country in a certain historical period, to conquer new territory. Although the essence of the game is warfare and strategy, there are underlying lessons about history, nations, different cultures.

If society is more concerned with these topics, and if it tries to find a solution with us young people, it will help future generations to step unharmed into the new age.

Here are some helpful sites where you can read more about this topic:

How Does Internet Addiction Affect Your Brain - by Dr. Rahul Chandhok: https://www.lybrate.com/topic/how-does-internet-addiction-affect-your-brain/170608050757f5d57f1f824244325b02 

Technology Addiction: https://www.addiction.com/addiction-a-to-z/technology-addiction/

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