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Digital media use and mental health

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Digital media[1] use and mental health is a topic that explores the correlation between the use of digital tools such as computers, smartphones, and the internet[2], and mental health conditions. This subject includes understanding whether there are specific diagnostic criteria for problematic digital media use, as currently, there are no universally accepted guidelines. It also investigates the impact of digital media on children and adolescents and how it could potentially affect their mental health. The term ‘problematic use’ is often used to describe overuse or dependence on digital media, with some debate around the term ‘addiction’. This field also includes research into the effects of digital media use on mental health and the recommendations to manage its use. Finally, it seeks to understand the wide reach of digital media, as seen in the high rates of ownership of digital devices and access to the internet.

Terms definitions
1. Digital media ( Digital media ) Digital media refers to any form of media that uses electronic devices for distribution. This form of media can be created, viewed, modified, and distributed on digital electronics devices. Digital media encompasses a wide range of items including software, digital images, digital videos, video games, web pages, and websites. It came to prominence with the rise of digital computers which enabled the binary representation of data. Over the years, digital media has evolved, causing significant societal and cultural shifts. It has also impacted various industries such as journalism, publishing, education, and entertainment. Additionally, digital media has given rise to new trends and legal challenges, especially in terms of copyright laws. The consumption of digital media has rapidly increased with growing internet access and the rise of social media platforms.
2. internet. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use standardized communication protocols, primarily the TCP/IP, to link devices worldwide. Originating from the term 'internetted' used in 1849, the term 'Internet' was later used by the US War Department in 1945. Its development began with computer scientists creating time-sharing systems in the 1960s and further progressed with the establishment of ARPANET in 1969. The Internet is self-governed, without a central authority, and its principal name spaces are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It has significantly transformed traditional communication media and has grown exponentially over the years, with internet users increasing 20% to 50% annually. In 2019, over half of the world population used the Internet. The Internet protocol suite, which includes TCP/IP and four conceptual layers, guides internet packets to their destinations. Essential services like email and Internet telephony operate on the Internet. The World Wide Web, a global collection of interconnected documents, is a key component 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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