It is right that the committee investigate the growth of new technologies. The internet has revolutionised how people work, connect and communicate, opening countless new opportunities to learn, grow and create new businesses. With the Government’s upcoming Online Harms White Paper, it is a timely moment to take stock of some of most recent innovations and how we are engaging with them.
As guidance from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health noted in their recent publication, use of technology must always be balanced with socialising, good sleep, diet and exercise, and it is right that individuals and parents are the ones to make this decision. The technology industry is committed to providing users with the tools and education they need to control their use of digital devices and achieve this balance, with a range of controls now available.
With a clear lack of evidence, there is a need for further research into digital addiction and the relationship between use of technology and mental health. Digital addiction is a broad term that captures a range of disorders, such as excessive screen time, which can be linked to or be symptoms of other health issues, both mental and physical, such as depression or immobility.
When discussing digital addiction the Committee should be clear in defining the specific illnesses under consideration and ensure there is a strong evidence for any relationship with poor mental health before recommending actions.
The UK is prime position to take a leadership role as the adoption of immersive technologies grows in all sectors from retail to healthcare and education. It is critical that the Government continue to support innovation and improve the digital skills pipeline if this leadership is to achieve its full potential.