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How a new tool identifies overuse of digital media

To make it easier for clinicians to address digital media addiction, researchers have developed a new tool, Digital Media Overuse Scale

A new tool makes it easier for clinicians to address digital media addiction,(Pixabay)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 07.12.2023  |  04:00 PM IST

With advances in technology, the allure of digital media has become almost inescapable for many, particularly since the pandemic. However, this comes with increasing concerns about users' overall health. To make it easier for clinicians to address digital media addiction, researchers have developed a new tool.

While it’s important to assess digital media addiction, the current tools to do that are outdated. To address this shortcoming, researchers from Binghamton University and, the State University of New York, have developed the Digital Media Overuse Scale or dMOS. Using this, clinicians and researchers can make broad (for instance, social media) or focused (for example, Instagram) observations, the university’s press statement explained.

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The tool comprises questions that focus on psychology. For instance, one of the question types is 'I have trouble stopping myself from using X even when I know I should.' Here, X refers to a tech domain, such as social media or gaming. It can be changed according to the investigation.

To test the scale, the researchers conducted a survey of 1,000 college students to assess their behaviours in five domains: smartphone usage, video consumption, social media, gaming, and pornography use. The findings, published in the journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior, showed that overuse is not a general thing and respondents reported overuse in one or a select few domains only. 

The survey indicated the scale is a reliable tool to use to better understand digital media addiction through human psychology. “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," Daniel Hipp, one of the lead authors the study explained in the statement.

Previous studies have shown that addiction to digital media, particularly social media, can significantly impact the mental well-being of users. For instance, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, showed a causal link between time spent on social media and increased depression and loneliness. Another 2018 study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, demonstrated that higher use of social media could increase teenagers’ risk of cyberbullying.

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