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Hyperconnectivity and screens: What you need to know

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We live in an increasingly connected world: the technology around us is rapidly evolving and new digital tools appear every day. Although they make our lives much easier, connected devices and the Internet change our relationship to each other and to our environment. As for children, they are exposed to screens from the very beginning of their lives and grow up surrounded by many connected devices.

Today, technology is at the center of many of our daily activities. The Internet has become an essential work and information tool that meets the growing needs of our modern society. Technological progress has allowed us to develop more powerful and even more accessible devices. The result? We individually own more and more connected devices, such as computers, smart TVs, cell phones, tablets, video game consoles, smartwatches, and fitness trackers. And each device provides access to countless features that allow us to do just about anything online (socialize, follow the news, get directions, pay bills, listen to music, take pictures, learn a new language, work out, etc.).

This social phenomenon, which affects everyone and is here to stay, has been dubbed hyperconnectivity by researchers at Montreal’s regional public health department (DRSP).

“ Hyperconnectivity is a phenomenon characterized by the integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into the daily functions of organizations and groups, as well as into the lifestyle habits of individuals [...]. ICTs can lead to the emergence of multiple uses that can contribute to the development and quality of life of individuals or be associated with health problems. ”

Montreal DRSP (2022) 1 (free translation)

The pros and cons of hyperconnectivity

Wide access to the Internet and screens significantly improves our quality of life, but also contributes to increasing the amount of time we spend on them every day outside of work and school. Some people can even develop problematic Internet use or, in other words, a cyberaddiction.

Public health experts in Quebec and around the world are concerned about the effects of screen use and hyperconnectivity on mental and physical health, interpersonal relationships, and the development of children and adolescents. This is why daily screen time limits as well as monitored use are recommended for toddlers and children. Although there are no recommendations for daily screen time for teenagers , they should still strive for balanced use that takes into account the quality of the content viewed, the contexts in which devices are used, and individual characteristics (age, personality, vulnerabilities).

The key to enjoying the benefits and reducing the risks of technology in both our lives and our children’s is to understand how it influences our habits, so we can better evaluate our own situation and take action to reach a better balance.

A few figures on the place of technology in our lives…

… for children and teens

  • According to the INSPQ (2022),2 17% of children ages 6 to 8, 32% of children ages 9 to 11, 74% of teens ages 12 to 14, and 94% of teens ages 15 to 17 own a smartphone.
  • Still according to the INSPQ (2022),2 the proportion of young people experiencing negative effects on their physical health is greater for those who have more than two devices compared to those with no or only one personal device.
  • According to a Montreal study (2019),1 more than 4 h of recreational screen time per day is associated with a higher risk of school dropout, fewer personal and social resources , as well as poorer mental and physical health.

… for adults

  • In Quebec (2021),2 97% of adults own at least one of the following devices: laptop or desktop computer, smartwatch, smartphone, electronic tablet, connected fitness tracker.
  • According to a Montreal study (2019),2 more than 4 h of recreational screen time per day is associated with a higher level of psychological distress, poorer physical health, difficulty sleeping, and a higher level of dissatisfaction in several spheres of life (relationships, finances, etc.).
  • According to a recent PAUSE survey (2022), 86% of parents feel like they have problematic Internet and screen use, even if only a little. Nearly 60% report using them out of habit.

Hyperconnectivity is no accident

Most people who design websites, apps, and social networks exploit our natural search for pleasure and our curiosity to maximize our interactions with their products and reap more profits. To achieve this, teams of experts combine all the elements needed to create the perfect formula to hook users: unpredictable feedback, social approval, unexpected sounds, captivating colours, etc. They master these elements so well that it becomes virtually impossible to resist the urge to go online (to check emails, surf the web, use social media, etc.). This difficulty that young and old alike can experience is therefore not only the result of a lack of personal willpower…

Test your knowledge

What percentage of teens do you think were identified in a study as being at risk of developing problematic Internet use?

Well done

Correct answer!

The correct answer is 18%!

The statistic is from a study conducted in 2016. (4)

And what is your role as a parent in all this?

To help your children develop healthy digital habits and manage their screen use on a daily basis so that they can maintain a balance… without forgetting to set an example! The goal is to work towards mindful Internet and screen use to enjoy their benefits while limiting their negative effects on you and your family.

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