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Digital addict

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Title: Digital addict  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Technology, Computer addiction, Digital sociology, Behavioral addiction, Digital omnivore
Collection: Behavioral Addiction, Internet Culture, Internet Terminology, Technology, Technology in Society
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Digital addict

Digital addict is colloquially used to describe a person whose interaction with technology is verging on excessive, threatening to absorb their attention above all else and consequently having a negative impact on the well-being of the user.

Used as a conversational phrase, digital addict describes an increasingly common dependence on devices in the digital age. The phrase is used to highlight the possible danger in being over exposed to technology in an age where the scope for using digital technologies in everyday life is ever-increasing and the danger of becoming dependent upon them is a distinct possibility.


  • Discourse 1
  • Origins 2
  • Children using digital devices 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


Stemming from existing terminology used to describe technological behaviour, and building upon phrases which suggest a more comfortable relationship with technology, digital addict engages with the possible negative side-effects of being a digital native, to recognise that technology should not be used without limitation.

Founded in current research on the adverse consequences of overusing technology,[1][2] digital addict is used as an overarching phrase to suggest an increasing trend of compulsive behaviour amongst users of technological devices, recognising that over-exposure to and over-use of technology can result in a dependence on digital devices, leading to behavioural symptoms similar to any addictive disorder, as the user neglects to maintain a healthy balance between using technology and socialising outside of it.

The negative side-effects of overusing technology have in recent decades attracted increasing attention as a legitimate psychological disorder. Unrestrained use of technological devices may impact upon developmental, social, mental and physical well-being and result in symptoms akin to other behavioural addiction.[3] Several clinics worldwide now offer treatment for internet addiction disorder,[4][5] and several studies have sought to establish a connection between the use of the internet and patterns of behaviour[6][7] Whilst not yet listed as a legitimate mental health disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, in the 2013 edition (DSM-V) internet addiction disorder was recommended for further study within an appendix of the manual,[8][9] demonstrating the addictive qualities of technology as warranting further medical and academic research.

It is clear that, whilst still debated, the potential for internet or digital devices to have addictive qualities is an emerging concern. In recent years particular attention has been paid to how the over-use of technology may be affecting the younger generation. With an influx of technology designed for day-to-day use, many children are becoming increasingly reliant upon digital devices for education, social networking and entertainment. With young people spending less time interacting with their peers face to face and more time indoors than previous generations, the direct impact of digital devices on both physical and mental well-being is becoming of concern.[10] In December 2013 researchers from the University of Maryland concluded the majority of students studied to be “addicted” to their technological devices, likening their symptoms when forcibly separated from technology to those experienced when withdrawn from an addictive substance.[11] The potential developmental side-effects of internet use are also recognised by the American Academy of Paediatrics in children under two years of age.[12] Furthermore, South Korea’s concern for the attachment its younger generation has to technology is even greater, with their parliament considering passing a law to curb obsessive game use within the country by classifying online gaming as a potentially anti-social addiction.[13]

Whether by academics, medics, journalists or users themselves, concerns are voiced worldwide about the potentially addictive qualities of technology, building a legitimate case for considering digital addict a valid social descriptor, aptly describing a collective trend in media habits. Although the extent to which digital addiction can be considered of medical interest continues to be discussed, the recognition of technology overuse as a developing cultural and social issue remains important.


The phrase has been used informally amongst some internet users and bloggers, one of the earliest uses being in 2009 in an article by Rupinder Gill on the popular blog SparkLife.[14]

The term was then independently adopted and promoted by Stephen Dilworth MD Member Network UK for Foresters, the international financial services organisation. Foresters defined, developed and applied the term digital addict to substantiate use of the phrase within discussion on the potential danger in being over-exposed to technology. The term has been used in several published resources, first appearing in its commercial use between October – December 2013.

The term was introduced to national and international audiences in a variety of blogs, articles, media releases, online publications, and interviews throughout this period[15][16][17][18][19] as part of Tech Timeout, an organised programme launched by Foresters to consider the societal effect of technology overuse.

The phrase has been used significantly, and persuasively, as part of the Tech Timeout campaign[20] an international initiative encouraging families to consider how reliant they are upon the devices within their home by taking an hour out of their day to spend away from technology and instead spend that time as a family. The Tech Timeout campaign was devised to negotiate the growing issue of technology addiction and addresses the importance of moderating our use of digital technologies so as not to become dependent upon them. Digital addict is used within this context to hint at the growing obsession with digital devices, and although an informal descriptor, it is used from a position of concern for the growing dependence upon technology in wider society and within the home.

Born of the recognition that the acceptance of technology in the modern world has hidden the extent to which populations are becoming reliant upon, and over-attached to, digital devices 'digital addict' offers a collective term to recognise the increasing amount of time dedicated to using internet or digital devices in contemporary society.

The digital divide has led to the development of many phrases seeking to define trends in behavioural use of technology and patterns of behaviour, ranging from digital native to digital detox[21] to digital omnivore, all recognising the prevalence of technology in our lives. Digital addict fits within this discourse and begins to consider the psychological effects of internet use and the impact this has upon mental, social and even physical well-being.

Children using digital devices

As of 2015, children as young as one-year-old are using technology, such as tablets, iPhones, computers, etc. Although these devices can be a good learning tool for children because the children learn how to use these technologies, it can also harm them in various ways. Researchers have found that the use of these devices can cause or contribute to child obesity because children spend so much time on their devices. It is also common for these children suffer pain because they are looking at their screens for long period of time. Moreover, children in the future may experience having poorer muscle tone because of being hunched over while using the devices. [22]

See also


  1. ^ Aric Sigman. The Impact of Screen Media on Children: A Eurovision for Parliament. August 2010. Accessed: 06 December 2013
  2. ^ Cris Rowan. The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child. The Huffington Post. 29 May 2013. Accessed: 06 December 2013.
  3. ^ Victoria Woollaston. The Five signs your child is addicted to their iPad – and how to give them a digital detox. 30 October 2013. Accessed: 22 January 2014.
  4. ^ Laura Donnelly. Child internet addicts sent to £4,500 a week addiction clinics. The Telegraph. 04 November 2013. Accessed: 04 February 2014.
  5. ^ Anonymous. Internet Addiction: How to fight it. The Telegraph. 12 January 2012. Accessed: 04 February 2014.
  6. ^ Polly Curtis. Can you really be addicted to the internet? The Guardian. 12 January 2012. Accessed: 04 February 2013.
  7. ^ Ollie John. Study: Internet Addicts suffer withdrawal symptoms like drug users. TIME. 19 February 2013. Accessed: 04 February 2013.
  8. ^ Jerald J Block. 01 March 2008. AMJ Psychiatry 2008;165:306-307. Accessed: 23 January 2014.
  9. ^ The American Psychiatric Association. News Release. DSM-5 Proposed Revision include new Category of Addiction and related disorders. 10 February 2010. Accessed: 24 January 2014.
  10. ^ Larson, L. R., Green, G. T., & Cordell, H. K. (2011). Children's Time Outdoors: Results and Implications of the National Kids Survey. Journal Of Park & Recreation Administration, 29(2), 1-20.
  11. ^ International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, University of Maryland, USA. the world UNPLUGGED. 2011.
  12. ^ Council of Communications and Media. Media Use by Children younger than two years. Paediatrics: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics. 17 October 2011. Accessed: 24 January 2014.
  13. ^ Heather Saul. South Korea considers law to classify online gaming as a potentially antisocial addiction.’ 11 December 2013. Accessed: 23 January 2014.
  14. ^ Rupinder Gill. Signs u r a Digital Addict. SparkLife Blog. Aug 2009. Accessed: 11 March 2014.
  15. ^ Families Online. 03 December 2013.
  16. ^ The Mummy Blogger. 25 October 2013.
  17. ^ Foresters Release: 7 Million people will buy tech presents this Christmas, yet over half want time away from gadgets. The Wriglesworth Consultancy. 03 December 2013.
  18. ^ Have a Merry Techy Christmas. Foresters Membership News and Views. December 2013. Date Accessed: 13 March 2014
  19. ^ Foresters asks: Are we a nation of digital addicts? Digital Journal. 25 February 2014. Date Accessed: 13 March 2014
  20. ^
  21. ^ Oxford Dictionaries Online. Accessed: 23 January 2014
  22. ^


"Are we facing a technology timebomb?" ITV. 06 May 2014. Accessed: 09 May 2014.

Boseley, Sarah. “Children’s health threatened by increasing screen time, says journal.” The Guardian. 9 Oct 2012. Accessed: 30 January 2014.

Briggs, Helen. “Web addicts have brain changes, research suggests.” BBC News. 12 Jan 2012. Accessed: 22 January 2014.

Cassidy, Sarah. "The Online Generation: Four in 10 children are addicted to the internet." The Independent. 09 May 2014. Accessed: 12 May 2014.

Christakis, Dimitri A. “Internet Addiction: A 21st century epidemic?” BMC Medicine. October 2010. 8.61

Giegerich, Caroline. "Digital detox and reboot your creativity" TedxAustinWomen. 5 December 2013. Accessed: 16 January 2014.

Giegerich, Caroline. "Beep!" The Huffington Post. 10 May 2014. Accessed: 12 May 2014.

Merritt Jones, Dennis. “Are you addicted to your cell phone?” Huffington Post. 19 May 2012. Accessed: 24 January 2014.

Petry, Nancy M & Charles P. O’Brien. “Internet Gaming Disorder and the DSM-5” Addiction. May 2013. 108.7: 1186-1187.

Richtel, Matt. gadgets&st=cse&scp=1. “Attached to Technology and paying a price.” NY Times. 6 June 2010. Accessed: 24 January 2014.

Walker, Peter. "Poll: Nearly 50% of year 10 students feel addicted to the internet." The Guardian. 09 May 2014. Accessed: 12 May 2014.

Wallace, Patricia. “Internet Addiction Disorder and Youth” EMBO Report. 7 January 2014. 15.1:12-16.

Williams, Zoe. “Game on, or off? Should we be worried about our tech-addicted toddlers?” The Guardian. 31 Jan 2014. Accessed: 3 December 2014.

Wilkinson, Carl. “Shutting out a world of digital distraction” The Telegraph. 6 September 2012. Accessed: 04 February 2014.

Woods, Judith. “Computer Kids: Does your child need a digital detox.” The Telegraph. 22 April 2013. Accessed: 20 January 2014.

Wray, Richard. Our digital addiction: 727 hours surfing, 27 phoning and 972 texts. The Guardian. 20 November 2008. Accessed: 24 January 2014.

Young, Kimberley. “Internet Addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder”, Cyber Psychology & Behaviour. January 2009. 1.3: 237-244.

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