1. Study suggests Pokémon Go may actually promote healthier lifestyle

    July 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Kent State University press release:

    Today marks the one year anniversary of Pokémon GO’s worldwide release that sent crowds hiking through parks, meandering into streets and walking for miles in search of Pokémon, those cute little digital characters that appear in real locations on your smartphone.

    Capturing the little monsters isn’t just fun for the players, it might be good for their health. Too often we sit at a desk all day, spend countless hours in the car, and with a smartphone glued to our hands it is too easy to spend our free time watching videos, playing games and browsing the internet. Such sedentary behaviors cause us to sit more and exercise less.

    However, Kent State University researchers found that playing a popular physically-interactive, smartphone based game, like Pokémon GO, may actually promote exercise.

    Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., from Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services assessed the ability of the popular, physically-interactive, smartphone based video game Pokémon GO to increase walking and decrease sedentary behavior, like sitting. Over 350 college students reported their physical activity and sedentary behavior the week before they downloaded Pokémon GO, the week immediately after downloading the game, and again several weeks later.

    Results show that, relative to the week before downloading Pokémon GO, students doubled their daily walking behavior (102 percent increase) and reduced sedentary behavior by 25 percent during the first week after downloading. When comparing behavior several weeks after downloading Pokémon GO, to the week before downloading, walking and sedentary behavior was still 68 percent greater and 18 percent lower, respectively, even though frequency of game play decreased by 58 percent.

    “While the largest increases in walking and decreases in sitting occurred during the first week after downloading, when the game was new to the user, those positive effects largely persisted weeks later,” Barkley said. “It is possible that games like Pokémon GO may help people initiate a positive health behavior change, such as more daily walking and less sitting.”

    The researchers suggest that while many smartphone functions may promote sedentary activity, they are hopeful that playing physically-interactive, smartphone based video games like Pokémon GO may help promote walking and reduce sitting in college students.

    The study is published in the Games for Health Journal.


  2. Study identifies four categories of Facebook users

    July 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    On an average day, 1.28 billion people check it. Monthly? Nearly 2 billion. And according to one recent estimate, the average Facebook user spends 35 minutes a day on the platform — which makes for a whole lot of daily and monthly minutes.

    In a recently published study, a trio of Brigham Young University communications professors explores why.

    “What is it about this social-media platform that has taken over the world?” asked lead author Tom Robinson. “Why are people so willing to put their lives on display? Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?'”

    Based on subject responses, the research team identified four categories of Facebook users: relationship builders, town criers, selfies and window shoppers.

    Relationship builders post, respond to others’ posts and use additional Facebook features primarily in an attempt to fortify relationships that exist beyond their virtual world. “They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends,” Robinson said. People in this group identified strongly with such statements as “Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.”

    Town criers, on the other hand, experience a much larger gap between their real and virtual worlds. Unconcerned with sharing photos, stories or other information about themselves, they instead “want to inform everybody about what’s going on,” Robinson said. Like town criers from days of yore, “they’re pushing out information.” They repost news stories, announce events — but may otherwise neglect their profile pages, preferring to update family and friends through alternative means.

    Selfies use Facebook to self promote. Like relationship builders, they post pictures, videos and text updates — but unlike relationship builders, they’re focused on getting attention, likes and comments. Study participants in this category identified highly with the statement “The more ‘like’ notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.” Selfies, said study co-author Kris Boyle, use the platform “to present an image of themselves, whether it’s accurate or not.”

    Window shoppers, like town criers, feel a sense of social obligation to be on Facebook but rarely post personal information. Unlike town criers, these users, said study co-author Clark Callahan, “want to see what other people are doing. It’s the social-media equivalent of people watching.” Window shoppers identified with such statements as “I can freely look at the Facebook profile of someone I have a crush on and know their interests and relationship status.”

    For this study, the researchers compiled a list of 48 statements identifying potential reasons people use Facebook. Subjects sorted the statements in a way that reflected their personal connection to the ideas, then rated each statement on a scale from “most like me” to “least like me.” Finally, the researchers interviewed each subject to get a deeper understanding of their rankings and ratings.

    Though previous Facebook-related research has explored users with relationship-builder and selfie characteristics, Robinson said, the town criers and window shoppers were an unexpected find. “Nobody had really talked about these users before, but when we thought about it, they both made a lot of sense.”

    Facebook users may identify to some degree with more than one category — Boyle noted that most people have at least some selfie tendencies, for example. But users typically identify more with one than others. “Everybody we’ve talked to will say, ‘I’m part of this and part of this, but I’m mostly this,'” said Robinson, who calls himself a relationship builder.

    So what’s the value in the label?

    “Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” Boyle said. “And most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”


  3. Study suggests digital communication improves young patient engagement

    July 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    Using texts, emails, Skype and other digital communication methods can improve the health care experience of younger patients.

    That is the conclusion of new research, led by the University of Warwick and King’s College London, which examined case studies from 20 NHS specialist clinical teams from across England and Wales.

    A ‘first look’ scientific summary about the research has just been published on the NIHR Journals Library.

    Young people with long-term health conditions often disengage from health services, resulting in poor health outcomes. In an attempt to address this, NHS clinicians are using digital communication to reverse this. However, so far it’s been unclear whether this has been effective; there are gaps in evidence as to how it might work, its cost and ethical and safety issues.

    The research, which was conducted between 2013-2016 was led by Professor Frances Griffiths from the Warwick Medical School and Jackie Sturt, Professor of Behavioural Medicine in Nursing at King’s College London. Professor Griffiths said: “NHS policy prompts more widespread use of digital communication to improve health care experience.

    Digital communication enables timely access for young people to the right clinician at the time when it can make a difference to how they manage their health condition. This is valued as an addition to traditional clinic appointments, and can engage those otherwise disengaged. It can enhance patient autonomy, empowerment and activation.”

    Interviews were conducted with 165 young patients, aged 16-24 years, who live with a long-term health condition, along with 173 health professionals, including 16 information governance specialists. Overall, 79 clinical observations took place.

    The researchers wanted to establish if 16-24 year olds involved in their own health care improves as a result of using digital communication with their clinicians could improve, and to identify associated costs and necessary safeguards.

    The findings suggest that benefit is most likely, and risks will be mitigated, when digital communication is used with patients who already have a relationship of trust with the clinical team, and who need to have flexible access, such as when transitioning between services, treatments or lived context.

    The study noted the implications for clinicians. The main cost driver is staff time. However, the researchers believe that this is likely to be offset by savings elsewhere in the health service. Young people and clinicians can mitigate risks of this approach by using common sense approaches to avoid increased dependence on clinicians, inadvertent disclosure of confidential information and communication failures. The researchers also noted that clinical teams need to be proactive in their approaches to ethics, governance and patient safety.

    Professor Jackie Sturt commented, “Digital communication is already happening between health professionals and young people, and it’s clearly something young people want. We think the NHS should be proactive in creating guidelines and helping clinicians to engage young people via digital communication. There are obviously risks, but also the potential for real benefits.”


  4. Study suggests presence of smartphone reduces cognitive capacity

    July 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) press release:

    Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

    McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

    In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

    The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

    The findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand. “We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

    In another experiment, researchers looked at how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence — or how strongly a person feels he or she needs to have a smartphone in order to get through a typical day — affected cognitive capacity. Participants performed the same series of computer-based tests as the first group and were randomly assigned to keep their smartphones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. In this experiment, some participants were also instructed to turn off their phones.

    The researchers found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

    Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

    “It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”


  5. Most people ‘aren’t as happy as their friends’ on social media

    July 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Indiana University press release:

    A study led by computer scientists at Indiana University has found that people with the most connections on social media are also happier. This may cause most social media users to not only regard themselves as less popular than their friends but also less happy.

    The recently published study is essentially the first to provide scientific evidence for the feeling many people experience when they log into services like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: that everyone else looks like they’re having more fun.

    For the purposes of this study, which used publicly available data from Twitter, reciprocal followers were defined as “friends” and users with the most connections were defined as “popular.”

    “This analysis contributes to a growing body of evidence that social media may be harmful to users who ‘overindulge’ in these services since it’s nearly impossible to escape negative comparisons to their friends’ popularity and happiness,” said lead author Johan Bollen, associate professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, who advises people to carefully monitor and limit use of these services.

    “Given the magnitude of social media adoption across the globe, understanding the connection between social media use and happiness may well shed light on issues that affect the well-being of billions of people,” he added.

    The study builds upon a phenomenon known as the Friendship Paradox, which finds that most people on a social network have fewer connections on average than their friends, since the most popular users intersect with a higher-than-average number of social circles. The IU-led study is the first to reveal that these more popular users are also happier on average, inflating the overall happiness level of a user’s social circle — an effect the researchers dubbed the “Happiness Paradox.”

    “As far as we’re aware, it’s never been previously shown that social media users are not only less popular than their friends on average but also less happy,” Bollen said. “This study suggests that happiness is correlated with popularity, and also that the majority of people on social networks aren’t as happy as their friends due to this correlation between friendship and popularity.”

    To conduct the analysis, Bollen and colleagues randomly selected 4.8 million Twitter users, then analyzed the group for people who followed one another on the network, creating a social network of about 102,000 users with 2.3 million connections.

    The team then narrowed their focus to individuals with 15 or more “friends” on the network, after which they analyzed the sentiment of these users’ tweets, a common method in computer science and marketing to assess whether digital postings are generally positive or negative in tone. This created a group of 39,110 Twitter users. Users with higher positive sentiment were defined as “happy.”

    A statistical analysis of that final group found with high confidence that 94.3 percent of these users had fewer friends on average than their friends. Significantly, it also found that 58.5 percent of these users weren’t as happy as their friends on average.

    “In other words, a majority of users may feel that they’re less popular than their friends on average,” Bollen said. “They may also have the impression that they’re less happy than their friends on average.”

    The study also found that social media users tend to fall into two groups: happier users with happier friends and unhappier users with unhappier friends. Surprisingly, the unhappier users were still likely to be less happy than their unhappy friends, suggesting they’re more strongly affected by their friends’ unhappiness.

    “Overall, this study finds social media users may experience higher levels of social dissatisfaction and unhappiness due to negative comparison between their and their friends’ happiness and popularity,” Bollen said. “Happy social media users may think their friends are more popular and slightly happier than they are — and unhappy social media users will likely have unhappy friends who still seem happier and more popular than they are on average.”

    The paper, titled “The happiness paradox: your friends are happier than you,” appears in the European Physical Journal Data Science. Additional authors are Guangchen Ruan, doctoral researcher at IU; Bruno Gonçalves of New York University; and Ingrid van de Leemput of Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

    This study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.


  6. Study suggests “phone snubbing” leads to similar behaviour

    June 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Baylor University press release:

    People who are phone snubbed — or “phubbed” — by others are, themselves, often turning to their smartphones and social media to find acceptance, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

    Building on their earlier study that phubbing can damage relationships and lead to depression, researchers Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, and James A. Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing, have found that the circle nearly completes itself as the offended parties frequently jump online to find affirmation in the likes and shares and positive comments of social media.

    Their study, “Phubbed and Alone: Phone Snubbing, Social Exclusion, and Attachment to Social Media,” is published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. The research investigates the relationship between phubbing, social media attachment, depression, anxiety and stress.

    “When an individual is phubbed, he/she feels socially excluded which leads to an increased need for attention. Instead of turning to face-to-face interaction to restore a sense of inclusion, study participants turned to social media to regain a sense of belonging,” said David, lead author of the study. “Being phubbed was also found to undermine an individual’s psychological well-being. Phubbed individuals reported higher levels of stress and depression.”

    “We’re looking online for what we’re not getting offline,” Roberts said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

    As part of their research, David and Roberts surveyed more than 330 people across two studies. They found:

    • Nearly half of those who were phubbed reported spending more than 1.5 hours on their phone each day. In addition, one-quarter of those phubbed reported spending more than 90 minutes per day on social media sites.
    • More than one-third of phubbed individuals indicated that they turn to social media to interact with new people.
    • More than half of individuals who said they were phubbed indicated that social media enhances their life and makes their life better overall. The majority of these individuals reported that people’s comments on their social media posts makes them feel affirmed and more accepted.

    “Although the stated purpose of technology like smartphones is to help us connect with others, in this particular instance, it does not,” David said. “Ironically, the very technology that was designed to bring humans closer together, has isolated us from these very same people.”

    Roberts, who wrote the book “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?” said this current research and the trends it identifies are troubling.

    “Our inability to separate from technology is devastating to our well-being,” he said. “Even if it’s not an addiction, it’s a deeply engrained habit.”

    To counter the negative effects of smartphone use, the researchers advise consumers to establish “smartphone-free” zones and times; establish social contracts (and penalties) regarding phone use with friends, family and coworkers; and downloading apps that track, monitor and control smartphone use.

    “All this research into phubbing would be for naught, or only an interesting story, if not for the revelation that this type of behavior can drive others’ use of social media in an attempt to regain inclusion,” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, such behavior can also impact the well-being of affected individuals.”


  7. Concentration spans drop when online ads pop up

    June 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    Two Polish researchers have shown that measurements of the brain’s electrical activity can be used to test the influence of intrusive online advertisements on internet users’ concentration and emotions. The exploratory study was conducted by Izabela Rejer and Jaroslaw Jankowski of the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Poland, and is published in Springer’s journal Cognitive Processing.

    Rejer and Jankowski’s direct, objective and real-time approach extends current research about the effect of intrusive marketing on internet users. So far, most studies on this topic have been subjective in nature, and have typically analysed only the impact of online advertisements on brand awareness and memory. Other researchers have investigated web users’ visual attention, recorded their behaviour, or relied heavily on subjective information provided in questionnaires.

    In Rejer and Jankowski’s experiment five Polish men and one woman, between 20 and 25 years years of age, were instructed to read ten short pages of text on a computer screen, after which they had to answer questions about the content. During the reading process, their attention was distracted when online advertisements randomly appeared on screen. The brain activity of each participant was measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG). The researchers did not only take note of each participant’s brain signal patterns, but also analysed how consistent these were across the different trials, and how they correlated with those of others.

    Two main effects were observed for most subjects. First, the presence of online advertisements influenced participants’ concentration. This was deduced from the significant drop in beta activity that was observed in the frontal/prefrontal cortical areas. According to the researchers, this could indicate that the presentation of the advertisement induced a drop in concentration levels.

    Secondly, the appearance of the advertisement induced changes in the frontal/prefrontal asymmetry index. However, the direction of this change differed among subjects, in that for some it dipped, and for others it increased.

    The researchers believe that the participants’ response to the advertisement might be influenced by their so-called motivation predisposition. “If the subject is more ‘approach’ oriented, the changes in the asymmetry index might reflect growing activity in the left brain hemisphere. If, on the other hand, the subject is more ‘withdraw’ oriented, these changes might reflect the growing activity in the right hemisphere,” explains Rejer, who also notes that this is only a hypothesis that should be tested in future work on the intrusive nature of different forms of online advertisements.


  8. Researchers pinpoint ‘attention disengagement’ lag as cause for impaired driving when talking on cell phone

    June 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Iowa press release:

    We all know that talking on a cell phone impedes your driving ability. But new research from the University of Iowa is helping us understand how even a simple conversation can affect your brain’s ability to focus on the roadway.

    UI researchers used computerized experiments that tracked eye movements while asking subjects to answer true or false questions. Respondents who answered the questions took about twice as long to direct their eyes to a new object on the screen than those not required to respond or who were asked no questions at all.

    The experiments mimic a scenario in which a driver is using a cell phone or having a conversation with a passenger, says Shaun Vecera, professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and corresponding author on the paper, published online June 5 in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

    It’s the first study known to examine attentional disengagement as the possible cause of poor driving while using a cell phone.

    “What this study suggests is the reason you should be cautious (when talking on the phone while driving) is it slows your attention down, and we’re just not aware of it because it happens so fast,” Vecera says.

    The delay is about 40 milliseconds, or four-hundredths of a second, which may not seem like a long time. But that delay compounds: Every time the brain is distracted, the time to disengage from one action and initiate another action gets longer.

    “It’s a snowball effect,” Vecera says, “and that’s what contributes to the problem, because eventually you’re oblivious to a lot that’s around you.”

    There’s little dispute cell phone use — whether texting or talking — is hazardous for drivers. The U.S. National Highway Safety Administration reports that in 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving drivers engaged in cell phone conversations, texting, and other distractions.

    That’s why a growing number of states — Iowa included — have either limited or banned some uses of a cell phone while driving.

    Research has demonstrated cell phone use reduces a driver’s field of vision, creating a cone-like field of view akin to tunnel vision. Other studies have suggested using a cell phone while driving places a mental burden, or “cognitive load,” on drivers, making them less likely to detect and react to the appearance of a new object.

    Vecera and his team wanted to explore why the brain was burdened with something as simple as having a conversation. After all, why would talking on the phone affect your ability to pay attention to the road?

    Engaging in conversation, whether on the phone or with someone in the vehicle, “seems effortless,” Vecera says. But it’s far more complex than one would think. The brain is absorbing information, overlaying what you know (and what you don’t), and then preparing to construct a thoughtful reply.

    “That’s all very effortful,” Vecera says. “We do it extremely rapidly — so rapidly we don’t grasp how difficult it really is.”

    In a study published in 2011 in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B, Vecera and colleagues documented that older adults with poorer mental and visual abilities took longer to switch their attention from one object to another than older adults with diminished vision only. In his current study, he hypothesized that younger, healthy individuals asked to answer questions while training their eyes on objects would mimic the older adults with cognitive decline.

    The experiment was simple enough. The participants answered a series of true or false questions, termed “active listening,” while researchers used high-speed cameras to track how rapidly their eyes located and fixed on a new object that appeared on a computer screen. Other groups either were asked a question but were not required to answer (“passive listening”) or were not asked a question.

    Among the simple questions was: “C-3P0 is the name of a tall golden robot, and he was in the popular film Star Wars.”

    Among the more difficult questions was: “The Magna Carta was written as a legal proclamation, subjecting the king to the law.”

    It took nearly 100 milliseconds, on average, for participants answering questions to disengage their vision from one object and locate and fixate their vision on a new object that appeared on the screen.

    “Active listening delays the disengagement of attention, which must occur before attention can be moved to a new object or event,” Vecera says.

    In addition, the eye movements of participants asked to answer both simple and difficult questions also lagged. Researchers believe that’s because the brain needs to be engaged when actively listening, no matter how elementary the topic of conversation.

    The solution? Don’t talk on the phone while driving, Vecera says.

    “There’s no evidence that I know of that says you can eliminate the mental distraction of cell phone use with practice or conditioning,” he says. “But that is an open question that should be studied.”

    Benjamin Lester, a UI graduate who majored in psychology and former post-doctoral research scholar at the UI, is the paper’s first author. The U.S. National Science Foundation and the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center funded the research.


  9. Study finds internet withdrawal increases heart rate and blood pressure

    June 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Swansea University press release:

    Scientists and clinicians from Swansea and Milan have found that some people who use the internet a lot experience significant physiological changes such as increased heart rate and blood pressure when they finish using the internet.

    The study involved 144 participants, aged 18 to 33 years, having their heart rate and blood pressure measured before and after a brief internet session. Their anxiety and self-reported internet-addiction were also assessed. The results showed increases in physiological arousal on terminating the internet session for those with problematically-high internet usage. These increases in heart rate and blood pressure were mirrored by increased feelings of anxiety. However, there were no such changes for participants who reported no internet-usage problems.

    The study, published in the international peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE, is the first controlled-experimental demonstration of physiological changes as a result of internet exposure.

    The study lead, Professor Phil Reed, of Swansea University, said: “We have known for some time that people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them, but now we can see that these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes.”

    There was an average 3-4% increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and in some cases double that figure, immediately on termination of internet use, compared to before using it, for those with digital-behaviour problems. Although this increase is not enough to be life-threatening, such changes can be associated with feelings of anxiety, and with alterations to the hormonal system that can reduce immune responses. The study also suggested that these physiological changes and accompanying increases in anxiety indicate a state like withdrawal seen for many ‘sedative’ drugs, such as alcohol, cannabis, and heroin, and this state may be responsible for some people’s need to re-engage with their digital devices to reduce these unpleasant feelings.

    Dr. Lisa Osborne, a clinical researcher and co-author of the study, said: “A problem with experiencing physiological changes like increased heart rate is that they can be misinterpreted as something more physically threatening, especially by those with high levels of anxiety, which can lead to more anxiety, and more need to reduce it.”

    The authors go on to speculate that internet use is driven by more than just the short-term excitement or joy of the technology, but that over-use can produce negative physiological and psychological changes that may drive people back onto the internet, even when they do not want to engage.

    Professor Reed said: “The individuals in our study used the internet in a fairly typical way, so we are confident that many people who over-use the internet could be affected in the same way. However, there are groups who use the internet in other ways, like gamers, perhaps to generate arousal, and the effects of stopping use on their physiology could be different — this is yet to be established.”

    Professor Roberto Truzoli of Milan University, a co-author of the study, added: “Whether problematic internet use turns out to be an addiction — involving physiological and psychological withdrawal effects — or whether compulsions are involved that do not necessitate such withdrawal effects — is yet to be seen, but these results seem to show that, for some people, it is likely to be an addiction.”

    The study also found that the participants spent an average of 5 hours a day on the internet, with 20% spending over 6 hours a day using the internet. Additionally, over 40% of the sample reported some level of internet-related problem — acknowledging that they spend too much time online. There was no difference between men and women in the tendency to show internet addiction. By far the most common reasons for engaging with digital devices were digital communication media (‘social media’) and shopping.

    Previous studies by this group, and many others, have shown short-term increases in self-reported anxiety when digitally-dependent people have their digital devices removed, and longer-term increases in their depression and loneliness, as well as changes to actual brain structures and capability to fight infections in some.

    Professor Phil Reed said: “The growth of digital communication media is fuelling the rise of ‘internet’ use, especially for women. There is now a large amount of evidence documenting the negative effects of overuse on people’s psychology, neurology, and now, in this study, on their physiology. Given this, we have to see a more responsible attitude to the marketing of these products by firms — like we have seen for alcohol and gambling.”


  10. Can parents’ tech obsessions contribute to a child’s bad behavior?

    June 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan press release:

    Fatigue. Hunger. Boredom.

    Those are often on the list of reasons parents mention if their child whines, has tantrums or acts out.

    Researchers are now asking if such negative behaviors could be related to something else: parents spending too much time on their smartphones or tablets.

    A small study from University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Illinois State University found that heavy digital technology use by parents could be associated with child behavior issues. The findings were published in the May 2017 online issue of Child Development.

    Researchers analyzed surveys completed separately by both mothers and fathers from 170 two-parent households. Mothers and fathers were asked about their use of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other technology — and how the devices disrupted family time (a disturbance that lead author Brandon T. McDaniel coins ‘technoference.’) Interruptions could be as simple as checking phone messages during mealtime, playtime and routine activities or conversations with their children.

    Might a few stolen moments used to check a couple text messages have a deeper effect?

    While more research is needed, the study suggests it might: Even low or seemingly normal amounts of tech-related interruption were associated with greater child behavior problems, such as oversensitivity, hot tempers, hyperactivity and whining.

    “This was a cross-sectional study, so we can’t assume a direct connection between parents’ technology use and child behavior but these findings help us better understand the relationship,” says senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a child behavior expert and pediatrician at Mott. “It’s also possible that parents of children with behavioral difficulties are more likely to withdraw or de-stress with technology during times with their child.”

    But she adds “We know that parents’ responsiveness to their kids changes when they are using mobile technology and that their device use may be associated with less-than-ideal interactions with their children. It’s really difficult to toggle attention between all of the important and attention-grabbing information contained in these devices, with social and emotional information from our children, and process them both effectively at the same time.”

    McDaniel, who designed and carried out the study, says researchers hope to learn more about the impact of increasing digital technology use on families and children.

    “Research on the potential impact of this exposure lags far behind,” says McDaniel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University.

    “It’s too early to draw implications that could be used in clinical practice but our findings contribute to growing literature showing an association between greater digital technology use and potential relationship dysfunction between parents and their children.”

    Parents in the study were asked to rate how problematic their personal device use was based on how difficult it was for them to resist checking new messages, how frequently they worried about calls and texts and if they thought they used their phones too much.

    Participants also were asked how often phones, tablets, computers and other devices diverted their attention when otherwise engaged with their children.

    On average, mothers and fathers both perceived about two devices interfering in their interactions with their child at least once or more on a typical day. Mothers, however, seemed to perceive their phone use as more problematic than fathers did.

    About half (48 percent) of parents reported technology interruptions three or more times on a typical day while 17 percent said it occurred once and 24 percent said it happened twice a day. Only 11 percent said no interruptions occurred.

    Parents then rated child behavior issues within the past two months by answering questions about how often their children whined, sulked, easily got frustrated, had tantrums or showed signs of hyperactivity or restlessness.

    The researchers controlled for multiple factors, such as parenting stress, depressive symptoms, income, parent education as well as co-parenting quality (how supportive partners were of each other in parenting their child), which has been shown to predict child behavior.

    The study joins other research and advocacy groups contributing to a larger debate about technology and its effect on child development.

    Some professional societies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Zero to Three, recommend “unplugged” family time. But they haven’t tested whether lessening or changing digital technology use during parent-child activities is associated with improved child behavior.

    McDaniel and Radesky advise parents to try to carve out designated times to put away the devices and focus all attention on their kids.

    Reserving certain times of the day or locations as being technology-free — such as mealtime or playtime right after work — may help ease family tensions caused by the modern blurring of outside worlds with home life, they say.

    “Parents may find great benefits from being connected to the outside world through mobile technology, whether that’s work, social lives or keeping up with the news. It may not be realistic, nor is it necessary, to ban technology use all together at home,” Radesky says. “But setting boundaries can help parents keep smartphones and other mobile technology from interrupting quality time with their kids.”