Human beings are becoming too reliant on digital media, to the detriment of healthy social interaction.

Somehow always refer back to healthy social interaction from the use of digital media.

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Through digital media, the world is more connected than ever. The collective cultural embrace of technology has not only changed the nature of connectivity around the globe, it has also redefined social interactions and acceptable behaviours within relationships. It is the topic of great deliberation as to whether the impact of these technological advances to social interaction has been enriching or detrimental to society.

As people rely more on online interactions and more time is spent in the digital world than ever before, there has been a lot of concern about mental wellbeing and how regular use of social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, can influence individuals behaviour and their emotions, especially in children and young adults.

In adolescent years, it is important to make contact with peers and feel accepted, however, social media presents the risk of individuals feeling isolated and lowering self-esteem. A study conducted by Scope surveyed 1500 individuals who use either Facebook or Twitter found that 60% of these individuals reported feelings of jealousy as they compared themselves to others online. Often what is posted on these platforms are exaggerated versions of reality and with the intensity of the online world and the need to feel accepted can result in feelings of inadequacy and can cause depression, especially if social media is overused and there are blurred lines between online personas and reality.

Another negative element of social media is cyberbullying. “Cyberbullying has been the cause of many suicides in young people” (Kowalski, 2009). Using this form of online social interaction through social media platforms enables individuals to use their online persona to make hurtful comments to others, even though they might not have said these things face to face due to consequences, such as being told off by a teacher or parent. According to a survey by Cox Communications, 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person. Cyberbullying can be the cause of many mental health problems, including, depression, anxiety and isolation.

In contrast, “Social media sites can provide a place for adolescents to share their interests in art, music, games and blogs with others”(Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011). Although there have been a lot of negative views on the impacts of social media, it can also be viewed in a positive light, as it allows for individuals to stay connected and meet new people with similar interests. It is also a good resource for information and to implement positive changes around them, such as “fundraising campaigns and getting involved in “political events”” (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).

A growing concern today is addictions to different forms of digital media, such as games consoles. Obsessive use or overuse of games consoles can affect a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.

Video games have caused some concern, especially for parents of children who spend a lot of time playing them. An NPD study from 2011 revealed that 91% of children in America aged 2-17 play video games regularly which are up a large percentage from their previous study in 2009. As games design and technology evolve, they are starting to appear more authentic and lifelike. Now with recent add-ons such as microphones, it is possible to interact with others online whilst playing. There is the belief that interacting with others this way is healthy, however, Patricia Greenfield, a professor of psychology at UCLA disagrees.

A study by UCLA found that children who went to a camp and eliminated any digital media for 5 days did significantly better at reading human emotions than others who continued to use their electronic devices. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.” This study sheds light on the negative impacts on social development when children lack social interaction and replace face to face experiences with digital media.

Not only is there evidence to support that children can suffer mentally and socially from an addiction to video games, but they can also suffer physically too. One study by Dr Katherine Morrison monitored the effects of video game addictions in young adults and found that it had a massive impact on their sleeping habits, which can result in other issues such as; elevated blood pressure, high insulin resistance and high triglycerides.

Morrison also concludes that video games contributed to obesity in child addicts, due to lack of exercise and critical behaviours. Obesity can follow into adulthood and cause long-term health problems and diseases such as coronary diseases and type-2 diabetes.

Although there is a lot of concern about video games and their negative impact on children and young adults, there are also some positive elements of video games which should be considered. There is evidence by researcher Adam Eichenbaum which could suggest that video games have lasting effects on basic mental processes.

Video games which have the players move at a fast pace, keep track of multiple items and force them into making quick decisions allow users to exercise their perception and memory. It also contributed positively to decision making. Using these basic mental processes within a game is considered by psychologists to be a basic building block for intelligence.

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