We live in a hyper-connected world, where screens of all types are an integral part of our everyday lives. With this new “connected” reality, we are at increased risk of developing problematic Internet use. Let’s take a look at the facts and numbers.
Everything around us seems to be pushing us towards connectivity, whether it is our smartphones, which allow us to stay connected everywhere at all times, wider access to Wi-Fi, or the countless applications and platforms developed to draw our attention.
Why? Hyperconnectivity is no coincidence. Technological advances have led to the development of more effective and accessible devices. The Internet has gradually become an indispensable tool for work and information for many of us and also meets people’s needs and wants, such as socialising at any time and virtually unlimited access to entertainment.
The result? We use our screens often without a care or a second thought, whether at home, at school, at work… or even during our free time! In fact, the Internet is so useful that we’ve allowed it to occupy an important place in our lives, one that is sometimes too important. And this is where the risk comes in…
Still not convinced? Here are some statistics:
For children and teens…
- In Canada, 42% of children younger than 9 years, 55% of youth aged 10 to 13, and 77% of teens older than 14 have their own smartphone with an Internet connection.
- Among Quebecers aged 12 to 24 years, 1 out of 5 young people spends 35 hours or more per week in front of screens, only for entertainment purposes.
- In Quebec, it is estimated that nearly 18% of high school students are at risk of developing problematic Internet use.
… And let’s not forget adults!
- In Quebec, the percentage of family households connected to the Internet increased from 56% to 98% between 2004 and 2017.
- In Canada, adults spend on average 40.5 hours per week online on a computer, tablet or mobile device.
- In Canada, the average user spends 1 hour 42 minutes per day on their smartphones.
The appeal of screens
The Internet has it all: It’s easy to use, accessible at all times and almost everywhere (free or at low cost) and, especially, it offers an endless supply of applications, platforms and games that can quickly monopolise our time and attention. In sum, it has become difficult not to lose control in front of this bottomless digital buffet!
Formidable marketing techniques
If we spend a lot of time online, it’s in part because web designers work hard to come up with new ways to grab our attention. An easy task since we are pleasure-seeking and curious by nature!
Indeed, they master their art so well that it has become difficult for us to resist the temptation of turning on our screens. Among the techniques used to entice us, we need only mention notifications, likes, files that self-delete, and automatic playback of videos with a countdown.
Unfortunately, what is great to draw our attention is not necessarily good for our well-being.
Several web marketing techniques are based on FOMO (fear of missing out), a term which refers to the fear of missing important news or events. This fear is common and stems from the perception that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, meaning others lead a better life, have more fun, or experience more enjoyable moments than us.
Social media relies a lot on FOMO to urge us to log on more often, whether by showing us what we missed since our last visit, sharing events others are interested in, or telling us our “friends miss us.”
People who regularly give in to this fear tend to spend a lot of time online, which increases their risk of developing problematic screen use, in addition to preventing them from fully enjoying offline moments.
Addictive video games
From Fortnite to Candy Crush, online video game options are endless. For the vast majority of people, these games are a source of entertainment. However, they pose a high risk of addiction and loss of control, mainly for young people.
Video game use should be structured, especially when it comes to massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) that allow you to play simultaneously with or against thousands, even millions, of people across the world (Fortnite, World of Warcraft, etc.). These video games are designed to:
- be live and continuous (24/7);
- constantly evolve, even when a player is offline;
- reinforce interdependence between players;
- offer rewards (skills, powers, weapons, etc.) in an unpredictable way, but proportional to the time spent online;
- have no predetermined end or game over.