MEDICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF USING ON-SCREEN TECHNOLOGIES OF INFORMATIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL INFLUENCE: ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM
Marianna V. Markova1, Artur R. Markov1, Maya V. Savina2, Tsira B. Abdriakhimova3, Inna R. Muharovska3, Kostiantyn D. Gaponov1
1Kharkiv Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education, Kharkiv, Ukraine
2V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkiv, Ukraine
3Bogomolets National Medical University, Kyiv, Ukraine
Introduction: The continuous informatization of modern life dictates the need to identify the consequences of using technologies of informational and psychological influence on the psyche and behavior of the users.
The aim is to analyze the presence of the neurobiological basis of the mechanisms that underlie the pathogenic effect of informational and psychological influence on the state of mental health of the population.
Materials and methods: In the MEDLINE, Index Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, EMBASE, Cochrane Library databases, content analysis was carried out in three languages on the verification of interconnections between the use of TV and Internet resources and the various characteristics of the mental state of users.
Conclusions: The presence and mechanisms of the formation of harmful effects of watching television or using the Internet (social networks), for the state of mental health and psychological well-being of persons of all ages, both children and adults, is proved not only by empirical but also instrumental researches. The way to prevent the negative effects of the use of on-screen technologies of informational and psychological influence is intellectual and physical activity, the capacity for critical reflection of information, the skills of positive thinking, and communication with nature and oneself without any additional means of informational influence.
KEY WORDS: informational and psychological influence, television, social networks, medical and psychological consequences
Wiad Lek 2019, 72, 10, 2040-2045
XXI century – the era of information technology and global integration processes. Information technologies are used in almost all spheres of social life, making society and each particular individual more and more dependent on information . It generates, including the need to determine the presence and vector of the impact of information technologies on the psyche and behavior of their users.
The issue of influence on mass and individual consciousness has always interested mankind: from the founder of the theory of information-psychological war Chinese General and philosopher Sun-Tzi (“Treatise on military art”, VI century BC), to G. Lebon (“The Psychology of peoples and masses (crowd psychology)”, 1895), V. M. Bekhterev (“Suggestion and its role in public life”, 1903)  and modern researchers. Sufficient number of specialists learn the basics of the informational-psychological influences (IPI) and manipulative techniques , investigate the effect of “mental viruses” , others focus on the problem of information-psychological security of the person [4, 5], or on attempts to measure the consequences of action / counteraction the negative IPI .
Therefore, at the present time, the presence of actions of IPI on the mental state and behavior of users recognized by many scientists of different specialties, however, to date there is no consensus of professionals, particularly in mental health, on the pathogenetic background of this phenomenon. First of all, it concerns the mechanisms of the pathogenic effect of the information-psychological technologies on the mental health of citizens.
The aim of the work – is to identify and analyze the neurobiological background of the mechanisms that underlying the pathogenic action of the IPI on the state of mental health of the population.
Materials and methods
Given the fact that on-screen technologies are considered to be one of the strongest among the IPI tools by the degree of destructive action , a content analysis of materials on the verification of the interrelationships between the use of TV and Internet resources and the various characteristics of the mental state of users was made. The search was done in three languages (in English, Ukrainian and Russian) in the MEDLINE, Index Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index, EMBASE, Cochrane Library databases located on the leading electronic Internet search engines (Google, Yahoo, Yandex and META).
Review and discussion
As a result of the research, it has been found that there are currently quite a number of studies that examine the various aspects of the relationship between television viewing and the state of health of the individual. Moreover, the largest number of studies is devoted to the study of the influence of television on the development of the psyche and behavior of the child.
Proof of the correlation between the duration of the TV viewing and lower intellectual coefficient (IQ) and school failure appeared in the scientific area in the early 1980s of the XX century . At the same time, it was found that in children, whose viewing of the TV was limited for a short period, improved cognitive abilities . Subsequent studies confirmed the harmful effects of TV viewing in the form of reduced cognitive abilities, including attention  and memory , deterioration of academic performance of children [12 – 14] and the development of verbal communicative competence .
Subsequently, data on the relationship between delayed linguistic development among children before three years and excessive amount of time spent watching television were obtained. It was confirmed that children of school age, who spend two or more hours a day in front of the TV, are more likely to have syndrome of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional and behavioral problems, and social conflicts with peers [15, 16].
In addition to the negative impact on the development of formal intellect IQ, the negative impact of television viewing on the development of the child’s emotional intellect EQ was proven , namely, the ability to recognize and manage their own emotions, the ability to understand the parents emotional state and to empathize with other people’s intentions and desires, as well as the insolvency to have their own convictions and the inability to recognize the convictions of others. Moreover, the negative effect that was fixed, provided not only direct viewing of TV programs, but also in the presence of the child in the room with the on-set TV running in the background .
If the above studies have shown that television viewing may be associated with increasing of emotional and behavioral problems in pre-school or school-age children, then Japanese scientists have invented an identical relationship with children under the age of three. In a prospective study conducted on a sample of children from 18 to 30 months, it was found that hyperactivity – inattention at the age of 30 months was positively associated with exposure on a TV at the age of 18 months (direct correlation), whereas prosocial behavior was negatively related to the hours of television influence at the same age (reverse correlation) .
An American research of 2018 shows the link between the peculiarities of using television in early childhood and subsequent social interactions with peers in school or kindergarten. TV viewing conditions were divided into three categories: over-viewing, viewing without parents’ supervision, and viewing with adults. The results showed that the risk of social problems with peers in school at a child increases if family members did not participate in viewing interactive television with him in early childhood, or if the kids viewed adult programs. In the end, according to the latest recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, an interactive, interested joint television viewing of parents with babies is a more useful approach than simply restricting the exposure of a TV that the babies are watching .
Norwegian scientists, having studied 995 4-year-old children during 2 years, have proven that excessive involvement in watching TV causes insufficient involvement of children in joint activities with their parents, and, in general, negatively affects on the quality of child-parenting relationships, and, in the future – on the ability to build any social relations .
Another research by the same authors showed that one of the ways to optimize child-parent, in particular maternal-infant relationship, may be joint games on interactive media devices, such as a tablet. In the example of 22 pairs of mothers and their 2-year-old children, the best indicators of social and emotional development of children and positive-constructive the attitude of mothers towards them are used, provided that they use for joint games the interactive media, in contrast to conventional toys or joint TV viewing .
The most widespread discussion was about the results of a study by Japanese scientists who for the first time in history recorded the “structural development of the brain associated with television viewing” and proved the presence of structural changes in the brain in children, depending on the time they spent watching television broadcasts . Researchers from the University of Tohoku examined 276 children (133 boys and 143 girls) under the age of 5 to 18, who daily watched television from a few minutes to four hours a day. After examining 111 boys and 105 girls after a while, the researchers found that those who viewed more TV channels over longer periods of time experienced more significant changes in their brain structure and, over time, demonstrated a lower level of intellectual development. Scientists have found a correlation between the duration of television viewing and the amount of gray and white matter of the brain – they were able to identify structural changes (thickening) in the front-polar region, the visual part of the cerebral cortex , the hypothalamus, the septum, and the left sensorimotor region, developing depending on the duration of the television viewing.
Thus, for the first time, scientists have been able to detect the effects of watching television on the level of neural systems, and to uncover the mechanisms by which its negative impact on the intellectual abilities of children occurs. The ability of the brain to build logical chains and to analyze the information depends on the condition of the frontal cortex, and structural changes in the hypothalamus, septum, and left sensomotor region may correlate with aggression, excessive emotional response, and other behavioral disorders . In addition, the reduction of verbal intelligence in children with structural changes as a result of excessive viewing of television programs was proved . Consequently, this research at the morphological level has finally confirmed that television is directly or indirectly linked to neurocognitive development of children, and its excessive revision causes the formation of neurocognitive deficits, emotional and behavioral disorders.
Taking into account a significant number of high-level evidence, that prove the harm of excessive stay in front of the TV in the United States, for example, was formed movement from informed parents for strict limitation of the time, that was carried out using a TV or even a smartphone for their children . In American society, a new trend formation is now is observed: in general, children from low-income families spend around 8 hours and 7 minutes a day on a TV or smartphone while children from high-paying families – 5 hours and 42 minutes .
Despite the fact, that research in which the problems associated with the excessive using of IPI, in particular TV viewing, among adults, are much less studied, but still, there are credible evidence of its negative impact on viewers health.
Thus, Harvard researchers report data, that concerning to an increase of the risk of developing diabetes by 20%, cardiovascular disease by 15%, and premature death by 13% among those who spend more than two hours each day watching TV .
The results of another study, that conducted at the University of Buffalo, show a significantly higher level of stress, anxiety and depression among people who are overly fond of watching TV materials associated with excessive consumption of food and liquor .
The results of the study of the dangers of excessive television viewing, published in the Clinical Sleep Medicine magazine in 2017, convincingly demonstrated that high frequency of TV viewing are associated with poor sleep quality, increased fatigue and big number of symptoms of insomnia than among ordinary sample individuals .
There are also studies that link the excessive use of television (more than hours per day) with development of diabetes of the second type, or depression. American scientists refer to the results of the study of EEG, which demonstrate that overtime television viewing changes brain electrophysiology activity from beta waves to alpha waves, which provoke the occurrence of the dreamy state and block the use of critical thinking skills .
Structural changes in the brain tissue in the form of thickening of the prefrontal cortex, recorded as a result of excessive television viewing, have another paradoxical effect in adults: the research of the neurobiological model of the process of beliefs and doubts, conducted by the members of the American Psychological Association, found, that individuals with prefrontal area lesions are reveal a significantly greater propensity to authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism (due to the breakdown of the process of formation of normative doubts as to the correctly understood cognitive representations) .
Besides that scientists identified the area of the brain (in the parietal region of the cerebral cortex) that is activated when a person as a subject of information and psychological influences satisfying the need to be attached to any idea, community, or leader, feels related with something more than himself [32, 33].
In addition the negative influence of television viewing, scientists make an attempt to identify the effects of excessive Internet communication, first of all, the use of social networks.
Scientists research of media technology and health research center at the University of Pittsburgh, has even made it possible to propose a new definition – Facebook Depression, the meaning of which is that people who overuse social media may feel that their lives are not corresponds to the idealized life story presented by others in their own profiles, which can become a trigger for the development of depression in them. In the future, a vicious circle is formed: people who become depressed turn to social media with support, but their excessive interaction with its only exacerbates depression .
Research by scientists at the University of San Diego, based on the analysis of the results of two nationally-representative teens polls in the United States in grades 8-12 with a total of more than 500,000 people, and also national statistics on suicide deaths in age of 13 to 18, recorded an increase in cases of depression and suicides among teens during 2010-2015, and proved that teenagers, who spend more time on social media, reported more often about their mental health problems .
In addition to the above, the important feature of IPI on individual consciousness is that it, as threats, may not be noticed and not realized by the person himself. Experts say that the dangerous effect of IPI on individual consciousness can lead to two types of interdependent changes . First, it is a change in the psyche, mental health of a person. Since in the case of information influences it is difficult to talk about the limits of norm and pathology, the indicator of change may be the loss of adequacy of reflection of the world in consciousness and own attitude towards the world. We can talk about the deformation of the individual with the simplification of the form of reflection of reality, the coarse reactions and the transition from the need to realize the higher needs (in self-actualization, social recognition) to the lower (physiological, domestic). Secondly, this is a shift in values, attitudes, orientations, outlook of the individual. Such changes determine manifestations of deviant antisocial behavior and constitute a danger already for society and the state.
Consequently, taking into account the identified multi-levelness of the pathological consequences of using on-screen device of IPI on an individual level, we consider that this problem is the sphere of competence of medical psychology, because first of all the emotional, cognitive, behavioral and worldview sphere of the individual experience a destructive influence, what leads to an increase in risk of the spread and development among the population of various disorders of the mental sphere .
Our own clinical observations also confirm the presence of the negative influence of excessive use of on-screen technologies on the mental health of adults . The purpose of our study was to identify clinical manifestations and psychological mechanisms for the formation of non-adaptive conditions in patients from primary health care with varying degrees of involvement in the use of IPI technologies. Among 393 patients of somatic profile from some district clinics were selected 221 persons with symptoms of psychological maladjustment. The examined persons were divided into two groups according to the expression of passion to the TV viewing (TV), searching news on the Internet or reading periodicals: the main group – 112 patients with signs of psycho-emotional sphere distortion and high involvement to the use of IPI through TV or internet, and the comparison group – 109 patients with symptoms of psychological maladjustment with the low use of TV or online media. The check-up was carried out by using of a social-demographic clinical-psychological and psycho-diagnostic methods, included a clinical interview and psychodiagnostics.
It was found, that the clinical meaning and severity of maladaptive states in primary care network patients vary depending on their involvement in the use of means of on-screen technologies of IPI. Among individuals, who have intense addictive status regarding to seizure of watching TV and using of Internet, breach of psycho-emotional sphere are expressed at the level of formed or pronounced adaptation. They differ by high levels of psychosocial stress, by syndrome of psycho-emotional stress availability and clinically defined anxiety and depressive symptoms, with an overall prevalence of anxiety psychopathological phenomenon, in which were allocated anxiety-depressive and anxiety-leading dysphoric syndrome. In patients with low levels of involvement in watching TV and using of Internet, violation of psycho-emotional sphere are showed with asthenic-depressive or asthenic-hypochondriacal manifestations, basically of subclinical severity.
Patients who overly involved in watching TV and searching of internet news media have specific individual psychological and behavioral patterns, that lead to the development of their maladaptive states, and should be considered as targets of their psychocorrection. Mosaic combination of personal characteristics forms extrapunitive destructive, disorganizing profile, that determines the presence of maladjustment with the loss of control on cravings, increased anxiety and disorganization of behavior. Low personal resilience causes a lack of sense of personal significance and presence of a sense of loss of control over own lives, and presence of helplessness state and “acquired helplessness”. The choice of non-adaptive coping strategies supports and exacerbates psychological maladaptation by distorting the behavioral sphere of the personality. This constellation of personality characteristics leads to the wrong choice of how to reduce basal anxiety and restore the basic sense of security through the addition and identification with some archetypal idea or person, as attempts to be involved in global processes and with aim to create an imaginary false sense of protection, that leads to the formation of negative attitudes and loss of the sense of life, and, by the vicious circle principle, increases disadaptive condition. Patients with low levels of involvement in watching TV and using of Internet are characterized by deformed-intrusive-dysfunctional personality profile, lack of personal viability and the use of relatively adaptive cognitive and emotional strategies in combination with non-adaptive, relatively adaptive and adaptive behavioral copings.
As for the prevention of the medical and psychological consequences of the use of on-screen IPI technologies, scientists in this question are rather unanimous : the main fence of negative consequences is a conscious refusal, or dosed use of them, that should take place against the background of the ability to critically understand the information, intellectual and physical activity of the individual, transferring the focus of attention on close relatives and family interaction , the formation of skills of positive thinking, as well as communication with nature and by oneself without additional means formational influence.
1. At present, the fact of the existence of harmful effects of the use of on-screen IPI technologies, namely, watching of the television or using the Internet, on the state of mental health and psychological well-being of a person, is proven.
2. It is established that independent stay near the TV in the early childhood (up to 3 years) causes an increase in manifestations of hyperactivity in the current period and deformation of social interaction with peers and problems in child-parent relationships, in the subsequent life of the child. At the same time, a joint interactive, dosed television viewing of babies with their parents is more useful than the usual limitation of its exposure.
3. A direct correlation between the time spent near TV and the decrease of cognitive abilities, deterioration of academic achievement and increase in manifestations of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, emotional and behavioral problems among children of preschool and school age is established. In addition, pathological structural changes in the brain were recorded among children of school age, depending on the time of watching television.
4. Viewing TV more than 2 hours a day in adults is associated with an increased risk of developing 2nd type diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dyssomnia, depression and stressful state of chronic psycho-emotional stress. TV viewing more than norm in adults causes a pathological transformation of the electrophysiological activity of the brain, which reduces the ability to critical perception of information.
5. Excessive use of social networks in teens leads to an increase in cases of depression and predisposition to suicidal behavior, and in adults – to the emergence of a new psychopathological phenomenon – “Facebook depression”, the course of which is amplified by the vicious circle.
6. An effective way of preventing the negative effects of using IPI screen technologies is intellectual and physical activity, the ability to critically understand the information, the formation of skills of positive thinking, the shift of emphasis on close and family interaction, the formation of communication skills with nature and himself without additional means of information influence.
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The research was carried out within the framework of the research work of the Department of Sexology, Medical Psychology, Medical and Psychological Rehabilitation of the Kharkiv Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on the topic “Medical and Psychological Consequences of Social Stress and Information and Psychological Warfare (macro-, microsocial factors of maladaptation, mechanisms of formation, a system of psychodiagnosis, psychocorrection, psychoprophylaxis)” (state registration number 0117U000371).
According to the order of the Authorship.
Marianna V. Markova – 0000-0003-0726-4925
Artur R. Markov – 0000-0002-2164-7159
Maya V. Savina – 0000-0002-1292-7482
Tsira B. Abdriakhimova – 0000-0002-9723-3067
Inna R. Muharovska – 0000-0002-8487-0497
Kostiantyn D. Gaponov – 0000-0002-2835-1027
Conflict of interest:
The Authors declare no conflict of interest.
Marianna V. Markova
Department of Sexology, Medical Psychology,
Medical and Psychological Rehabilitation of the
Kharkiv Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education
Amosova St., 58, 61176 Kharkiv, Ukraine