Students are not necessarily addicted to digital media

Researchers have developed a new tool for measuring digital media overuse, whatever the new emerging technologies. — AFP Relaxnews

There are currently tests for measuring Internet addiction, as well as functions for tracking time spent on particular social networks. However, US researchers have gone one step further by developing a new tool capable of measuring addiction to digital media, whatever new technologies may emerge, revealing that students aren’t as addicted as you might think.

“We wanted to create a tool that was immediately useful in the clinic and lab, that reflects current understandings about how digital addiction works, that wouldn’t go obsolete once the next big tech change hits,” said Daniel Hipp, of Binghamton University, who co-led the research, quoted in a news release. The idea is to anticipate future changes in the digital world, and to help users gauge their dependence on these platforms.

To this end, the researchers teamed up with Boulder's Digital Media Treatment and Education Center to develop the "Digital Media Overuse Scale" (dMOS). This tool enables clinicians and researchers to use it in ways allowing them to conduct broad research, based on social networks, for example, or for more refined investigations, focusing specifically on Instagram, for example, depending on the information they wished to obtain.

The new tool was tested via a survey of over 1,000 students, with the aim of assessing their behavior in five areas: general smartphone use, online video consumption, social media use, gaming and pornography use.

Worrying behaviour among a minority

Surprisingly, among the key findings, the researchers observed “few indicators of dependence or overuse” of digital media among the majority of students. However, the responses of some participants resembled forms of addiction.

“Overall, the outcome reveals that overuse is not a general thing; respondents typically reported overuse in one or a few domains only, such as social media,” explains professor Peter Gerhardstein, who contributed to the research.

“More broadly, the data paint a picture of a population using digital media substantially, and social media in particular, to a level that increases concern regarding overuse issues.”

The researchers behind this digital media overuse scale present it as a “reliable, valid and extendable” tool, capable of providing “clinically relevant scores”.

“Rather than focusing on the tech, we built into the scale a set of ‘skeletal’ questions that focus on psychology. For example, one question type is ‘I have trouble stopping myself from using X even when I know I should.’ Replacing X with a tech domain, such as social media or gaming, we can ask the same question about several different tech domains. And we can replace X in future studies with new technology domains (ie, TikTok-style ‘shorts’) as they emerge,” says Hipp.

To pursue their research, the scientists are already experimenting with extending the scale to two other technological areas, without specifying which, and intend to initiate collaborations with other researchers, in the aim of “improving our collective understanding of how human psychology relates to the rapidly changing landscape of digital media”. – AFP Relaxnews

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