Digital Dependency: Are We All at Risk?

According to a report on digital dependencies in the Czech Republic in 2023, 354 people sought professional help for addiction to video games, computers, or the internet, compared to only 80 five years ago. While digital dependency is a growing concern, psychologists like Lukáš Blinka from the Institute for Psychological Research at Masaryk University argue that measuring children’s time on the computer is not worthwhile.

As technology becomes more integrated into our daily lives, the line between healthy usage and addiction becomes blurred. Blinka believes it is impossible to fight this trend and that digital detoxes and breaks from technology do not work. Instead, building skills that allow people to navigate digital spaces effectively is essential.

Blinka notes that while the public and experts tend to focus on the impact of digital dependency on children, this is misguided. The reality is that children are no more at risk than adults or seniors, and everyone needs to learn how to navigate the digital landscape. While teenagers are often the most vulnerable, digital dependency stems from other underlying mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

But how do we define digital dependency? Blinka notes that it is characterized by a loss of control over usage, where the person prioritizes digital activities over other essential functions like hygiene, sleep, and eating. This leads to negative consequences like social isolation, poor performance in school or work, and psychological issues like anxiety and depression.

While no set time limit for digital usage defines dependency, people should monitor their use if it impacts their lives negatively. One of the critical indicators of dependence is continuing with the activity even though the person knows it is harmful.

While digital dependency is a growing issue, it is essential to remember that it is not an epidemic. The number of people struggling with dependency is likely much lower than estimated, with fewer than 1% of people in the Czech Republic experiencing long-term dependency.

So, what can we do to mitigate digital dependency? One approach is to focus on underlying mental health issues that may drive dependency. Another is to build skills that allow people to navigate digital spaces effectively.

While the digital world has many benefits, it is essential to remember that it can also be a double-edged sword. The technology that makes our lives easier can also lead us down a dangerous dependency path. By building healthy habits and skills, we can ensure that our digital lives are enriching and rewarding rather than harmful.