Digital media use and mental health

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The subject of digital media[1] use and mental health delves into the link between the utilization of digital gadgets like computers, smartphones, and internet[2] usage, and mental health disorders. This area of study aims to determine if there are specific diagnostic standards for problematic digital media usage, as there are presently no universally agreed-upon guidelines. It further examines the influence of digital media on the mental health of children and adolescents. ‘Problematic use’ is a term commonly used to refer to excessive or dependent use of digital media, with some discussions revolving around the term ‘addiction’. This domain also encompasses research on the impact of digital media use on mental health and suggestions for managing its use. Lastly, it attempts to comprehend the extensive prevalence of digital media, as evidenced by the high ownership rates of digital devices and internet accessibility.

Terms definitions
1. digital media. Digital media, a term that denotes any media form that utilizes electronic devices for its dissemination, encompasses a broad spectrum of components such as software, digital images, digital videos, video games, web pages, and websites. These elements can be created, observed, altered, and disseminated via digital electronic devices. The prominence of digital media grew with the advent of digital computers, which facilitated the binary representation of information. As the years have passed, digital media has undergone significant evolution, leading to substantial societal and cultural transformations. It has also exerted a profound influence on diverse sectors like journalism, publishing, education, and entertainment. Concurrently, digital media has spawned new trends and posed legal challenges, particularly concerning copyright laws. The consumption of digital media has seen a swift surge due to increased internet access and the emergence of various social media platforms.
2. internet. The Internet, a global network of interconnected computer systems, utilizes standardized communication protocols, predominantly TCP/IP, to connect devices across the globe. The term 'Internet' has its roots in the 1849 term 'internetted' and was later adopted by the US War Department in 1945. The inception of the Internet can be traced back to the 1960s when computer scientists developed time-sharing systems, which eventually led to the creation of ARPANET in 1969. The Internet operates autonomously, without any central control, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages its primary name spaces. It has revolutionized traditional communication methods and has seen an exponential growth, with the number of internet users growing by 20% to 50% every year. In 2019, more than half of the global population was using the Internet. The Internet protocol suite, comprising TCP/IP and four conceptual layers, directs internet packets to their intended destinations. Fundamental services such as email and Internet telephony function on the Internet. The World Wide Web, an extensive network of interconnected documents, serves as a crucial element of the Internet.

The relationships between digital media use and mental health have been investigated by various researchers—predominantly psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and medical experts—especially since the mid-1990s, after the growth of the World Wide Web. A significant body of research has explored "overuse" phenomena, commonly known as "digital addictions", or "digital dependencies." These phenomena manifest differently in many societies and cultures. Some experts have investigated the benefits of moderate digital media use in various domains, including in mental health, and the treatment of mental health problems with novel technological solutions.

The delineation between beneficial and pathological use of digital media has not been established. There are no widely accepted diagnostic criteria, although some experts consider overuse a manifestation of underlying psychiatric disorders. The prevention and treatment of pathological digital media use is also not standardized, although guidelines for safer media use for children and families have been developed. The 2013 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) do not include diagnoses for problematic internet use and problematic social media use; the ICD-11 includes a diagnosis for gaming disorder (commonly known as video game addiction), whereas the DSM-5 does not. Debate over how and when to diagnose these conditions is ongoing as of 2023. The use of the term addiction to refer to these phenomena and diagnoses has been questioned.

Digital media and screen time have changed how children think, interact and develop in positive and negative ways, but researchers are unsure about the existence of hypothesized causal links between digital media use and mental health outcomes. Those links appear to depend on the individual and the platforms they use. Several large technology firms have made commitments or announced strategies to try to reduce the risks of digital media use.

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