As the world adjusts to a post-pandemic reality dominated by technology, public concerns about the dangers of over-consumption are gathering pace. According to a major new survey from Saudi-based cultural institute, Ithra, almost half (44%) of all people are worried about the impact of internet and smartphone use on their health. At an event to launch their digital wellbeing program – Sync, Ithra announced plans for an annual global summit, to take place in December.
Abdullah Al-Rashid, Director of Ithra’s Digital wellbeing program says: “As an organisation dedicated to individual enrichment, we at Ithra want to understand the cultural impacts of mankind’s growing reliance on the internet and social media. Unfortunately, our research shows that half of all people believe over-reliance on these platforms is damaging their wellbeing. This is why we are launching Sync – a new initiative designed to raise awareness about digital wellbeing, support novel research in partnership with global entities, and unite thought leaders globally to find new ways to protect the public.”
According to Ithra’s survey, the overwhelming majority (88%) of respondents worldwide agree that technology can be a great force for progress, with the key benefits including access to news, connectivity, and freedom. Many of these benefits were brought to the fore by the COVID-19 outbreak, with 64% crediting technology with having helped combat the pandemic. The outcome, however, is that almost everyone (91%) is spending more time online as a result.
Despite this underlying positivity, Ithra’s findings highlight significant concerns about the damaging effects of unchecked access:
- In terms of relationships, 42% of respondents believe technology reduces time spent with loved ones, and over a third (37%) blame it for blurring the lines between work and social lives. Parenting is also affected, with 44% of people with children admitting to letting them use a computer or smartphone unsupervised. These figures are even higher in North America (60%) and Europe and Central Asia (58%).
- Turning to technology’s impact on health, half (44%) of all people say they are concerned. Respondents in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia appear most worried, with 74% and 56% respectively fearing the negative consequences of the internet on wellbeing, compared to only 27% in Europe and Central Asia. Consistently with the group’s increased device usage, younger people are experiencing more physical symptoms than their elders: 50% of Gen Z respondents complain of tiredness, poor sleep and headaches as a result of digital consumption.
- Almost half (48%) of respondents are spending more time online than they would like to, with 41% admitting to getting withdrawal symptoms without access to their devices. Sleep deprivation is also a significant issue, with 51% of respondents skipping sleep every week, and one in four (24%) daily, to use technology.