Protecting health and well-being

1 Module 3

Module 3: Protecting health and well-being (ALTERA VITA and FGVJ)

3.1. Learning Objective: short summary of the training module. (Half page)

3.2. Learning Content (Min. 5 pages, max 8 pages. Only text)

3.3. One self-evaluation activity (Check the example)

3.4. Bibliographic references

(Two questions for the final test) (Check the example)

3.1. Learning Objectives

The technologies that 50 years ago we could only dream of in science fiction novels, which we then actually created with so much faith and hope in their power to unite us and make us freer, have been co-opted into tools of surveillance, behavioural manipulation, radicalization and addiction.

Increasingly social media is continuing to reduce people’s real communication skills and working knowledge. Major industries – energy, religion, environment, etc., are rotting from lack of new leadership. The level of those with aliteracy – people who can read but choose not to do so – is increasing in percentage. The issues we face are complex and intertwined, obfuscated further by lazy bloated media and readers and huge established industry desperate to remain in power as cheaply, easily, safely and profitably as possible – of course! Those of us who still read actual books that require thinking rather than mere entertainment must redouble our efforts to explain the complex phenomena we are in the midst of addressing in simple terms that can encourage, stimulate, motivate.”

Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally?

3.2. Learning Contents

1. Children Using the Internet

The Internet is an integral part of modern society and provides a quick and easy way for communication, socialization, and education. Internet use has grown worldwide to nearly 2 billion users belonging to all age groups, and the trend is most marked among youth. The average age of first Internet use has progressively decreased to 8 years of age in several European countries. A similar increased use of the Internet by children has been reported for the US, where in 2013 almost 57% of children aged 3 to 17 years used the Internet at home, which is 5 times higher than in 1997 (11%). Furthermore, recent reports show that children across Europe start using the Internet 1 year before they are given a mobile phone, which currently occurs at the age of 9.9 Children use the Internet for a variety of activities besides gaming; they frequently fill their free time with social networking, instant messaging, blogging, and downloading a wide range of information. Heavy Internet use has been associated with potential side effects, such as loss of control over the use of the Internet, adverse effects on other daily activities, emotional status, and communication among family members. In absence of appropriate guidance, the use of the Internet may in fact easily expose users to misuse, and it has been reported that, particularly for those belonging to complicated social environments, users may develop deviation in personality and mental health problems. Several warning signs, summarized in the Table (available at, may help in detecting a pathologic use of the Internet. The opinions regarding the impact of the Internet on children were widely articulated, and several researchers argued that, although there were several situations in which the Internet can harm, it may also be beneficial during the developmental years, by improving socialization skills, helping the collection of information, and gaining new knowledge, thus becoming the child’s best tool for learning. Therefore, views on whether the impact of the Internet would be positive or negative on children remains controversial. However, it is a shared opinion that adults (i.e., parents, guardians, tutors) play teaching and training role in influencing children’s behavior, ranging from adequate use to inadequate worshipping of modern technology.

EUROPEAN PAEDIATRIC ASSOCIATION, Internet Addiction: Starting the Debate on Health and Well-Being of Children Overexposed to Digital Media

2. The negative effects of technology on health

We are by no means claiming you shouldn’t use technology. In fact, we love staying connected. Instead, we want to encourage smart use of technology that takes advantage of its conveniences and counteracts the side exects caused by overuse. By considering the following symptoms linked to technology addiction, you can continue harnessing its power to improve your overall well-being while staying connected. Here are a few key considerations around technology use and how it affects our health.

3. Digital eye strain

When we gaze at a screen for long periods of time, we often forget to blink. In fact, research has shown that digital eye strain reduces our blink rate by half, which means the tears that protect our eyes evaporate without being replaced. Additionally, reading the smaller font son a Smartphone or other portable device can intensify the strain.

As a result, nearly 60 per cent of US adults report symptoms of digital eye strain, which includes dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, burning, itching, difficulty focusing and pain in the neck or shoulders. For most people, eye strain merely causes discomfort but it doesn’t typically result in any long-term problems.

Ways to reduce digital eye strain

To minimize discomfort, the doctors recommend taking a “20-20-20” break: Every 20minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away. To train yourself to blink more, try to get in the habit of blinking every time you breathe. Other tips to combating digital eye strain include:

Reducing overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare

Using eyewear if needed

Positioning yourself at arm’s distance away from the screen

Increasing the text size on devices to make them easier to read

Getting regular eye exams

4. Sleep disorders

We love our devices so much that many of us even sleep with them. One study found that 71% of smartphone owners keep their phone next to their bed at night to ensure they don’t miss a thing. Another study found that over 40 % of bedside Smartphone users wakeup from noises or lighting from notifications coming from their device.

It might seem like a harmless habit, but late-night technology use can interfere with your ability to sleep. According to a Gallup poll, 40 % of Americans say they’re not getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation and Swedish researchers discovered a link between heavy cell phone use and increased sleep disorders in both men and women.

Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more midcult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Tips for addressing smartphone addiction in bed

To avoid sleep disruption, try replacing late-night technology use with sleep-conducive activities such as taking a bath or reading in bed. Resisting the urge to keep your phone on your nightstand can also help minimize nighttime interruptions. Here are other tips to help you reduce the temptation of bringing your Smartphone to bed with you:

Turn off your Wi-Fi or use an internet blocker

Listen to a podcast

Put your phone somewhere you can’t reach but can still hear

Track your usage and set a limit

Turn off unnecessary notifications

Set your screen to night mode.

Physical inactivity

When we’re using technology like computers, video games or TVs, we generally aren’t exercising. That’s why there’s an increasing body of research linking the overuse of digital devices to decreasing exercise and fitness levels. For example, in a recent study covering college students in Thailand, researchers found that students experiencing Smartphone addiction participated in less physical activity compared to those who moderated their use.

Logically, spending more time on the couch and watching TV or playing video games reduces the time you spend staying active. However, the link between obesity and gaming is marginally associated to weight gain in adults, with exposure to unnatural blue light from a TV and smart devices being more associated with obesity.

Apps that help you get physically active

That’s a problem technology can easily help us solve. There are plenty of fitness apps available to help you stick to an exercise routine, stay motivated and track your progress. Using just one of them can help you get enough activity to counteract your screen time and encourage exercise.

Mental health

More than three billion people interact with each other over social media every day. While many of our exchanges are generally harmless, overusing these services can impact our well-being. Social media addiction is linked to a rise in mental health disorders like depression suicidal ideation, particularly in teenagers. Researchers made that correlation by highlighting how platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter place higher social on young people and adults that can lead to instances of cyberbullying, increased need for approval, and general feelings of discontent.

One study showed that teens who spent {ve or more hours a day on social media were twice as likely to experience depression-related symptoms. It also indicated that females using social media at that same amount were more likely to show signs of depression compared to males.

Tips for managing social media use

You don’t have to disconnect or delete your social media pro{les to protect yourself. We recommend finding a healthy balance that places less emphasis on digital reward systems and managing how much you use it. Here are a few healthy ways of using social media:

  • Log out and take regular social media breaks

  • Carefully decide what you want to post and who you wish to see it

  • Limit how many social media profiles you use

  • Delete specific apps that might be getting in the way of your productivity

  • Use a schedule for when you’ll be social online

A sampling of additional comments related to “digital addiction” from anonymous respondents:

  • Engaging apps and digital experiences are much like addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco and even sweet foods and sex and there has been little progress in creating a ‘healthy’ consumption model for digital experiences.”

  • Kids and adults alike are prone to go for the quick fix, the easy high or pleasant feeling, but not well armed to understand its impact on their health.”

  • People’s well-being will continue to be affected by the internet because the software, hardware and structures that are already in place are built to do exactly this.”

  • As social networking becomes ‘professional grooming’ as well as providing family/friend updates, the need for multiple platforms (such as LinkedIn and Facebook/Instagram) becomes an assumed need. The amount of time it takes for workers to manage tedious online interactions will lead to an increasing lack of work/life balance.”

  • Behavioral and psychological impacts of digital life will continue to be discovered and will confirm negative trends.”

  • Digital communications and the time they take away from personal interactions are contributing to growing social isolation and eroding interpersonal relationships. This affects individuals’ mental well-being. People everywhere – walking, in their cars, in meetings, etc. – are glued to their cell phones.”

  • Unless we are more aware/careful/media literate, there are a lot of ‘analogue’ behaviors we will jettison that are actually more efficient, positive and valuable.”

  • When human beings are constantly reminding themselves about a selfish bubble they’ve lost touch with the truth.”

Health Applications of the Internet

Many health-related processes stand to be reshaped by the Internet. In clinical settings, the Internet enables care providers to gain rapid access to information that can aid in the diagnosis of health conditions or the development of suitable treatment plans. It can make patient records, test results, and practice guidelines accessible from the examination room. It can also allow care providers to consult with each other electronically to discuss treatment plans or operative procedures. At the same time, the Internet supports a shift toward more patient-centred care, enabling consumers to gather health-related information themselves; to communicate with care providers, health plan administrators, and other consumers electronically; and even to receive care in the home. The Internet can also support numerous health-related activities beyond the direct provision of care. By supporting financial and administrative transactions, public health surveillance, professional education, and biomedical research, the Internet can streamline the administrative overhead associated with health care, improve the health of the nation’s population, better train health care providers, and lead to new insights into the nature of the disease.