May is mental health awareness month. With technology becoming ever important in our society, it is important that we acknowledge the impact that technology has on mental health. As a mental health professional I have seen first hand the fear that comes with technology, especially from parents of young children. Often, the child will quickly embrace a new technology or app and this will create a sense of fear from the parent or caregiver. It can be difficult for parents to keep up.
Technology, The Boogeyman
New experiences can feel and seem scary. The brain likes what it knows, we often experience a sense of comfort from familiar situations. So it’s no wonder that technology can be blamed for a lot of issues we face as a society. Technology moves so fast and can feel so foreign due to the speed of progress and innovation that we can often feel hesitant or afraid of it. It is actually quite normal to fear the unknown and feel uncomfortable with new things and technology lends itself to new experiences. For as long as there has been technology, there have been those warning against it. From radios and TV’s to the internet and social media, technology has forced us to adapt to new and unknown worlds. A world where the internet naturally seems scary to those who grew up without its influence.
The Boogeyman and Mental Health
Fear of the unknown and new experiences is nothing new for a lot of people but it can become worse when there is a focus on fear. It’s almost like how you can have a small cut on your finger and it doesn’t hurt until you notice it. Fear and anxiety are similar in a way. The more attention we give to the thing that generates our fear, the bigger and stronger it becomes. This means the more that we hear about the dangers and peril of technology and social media, the more we tend to have a fearful response to technologies.
The brain also likes to know things. Knowing things is how our brain prepares us for what we might face and keeps us safe. We tend to feel very uncomfortable not knowing something (like when a teacher would call on you in class and you didn’t know the answer). So since the brain likes to know things, it often tries to gather information and retain it for later. These messages we hear about the dangers of technology are kept and we often build upon them with more messages until we associate technology with danger.
The Boogeyman Antidote
So what do we do about the Boogeyman? How do we defeat “dangerous” technology?
Knowledge and positive messages.
It may sound easier said than done at times but if not fully understanding a technology leads to anxiety and fear around it, then the antidote is to equip ourselves with the knowledge to tame the fear and the unknown. By understanding technology, we are able to take back the power and lessen the anxiety.
For example, social media scares a lot of people, especially parents! It can feel like this giant monster of unknown interactions and information. By learning how social media companies and their algorithms work, we can encourage safe and sensible plans to use social media responsibly. Check out this helpful short video that explains how algorithms work.
While fearing the new changes we are faced with when it comes to technology is incredibly normal, we have the tools to combat the fear. Knowledge can help turn fear into confidence when it comes to technology.
Connor joined the Cyber Civics team in 2023 with experience in both social work and marketing. In 2020 he earned his LMSW in Texas where he worked as a therapist in a private practice. He made the switch from direct practice to marketing and worked with therapists to help market the profession and practice. Connor now works for Cyber Civics and Cyberwise. After earning his Bachelors in English, Political Science and Counseling from the University of North Texas, he went on to receive his Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Continuing his studies, he earned a certificate in Digital Marketing from the University of Texas in 2022.