The work of technological hackers and information reapers is familiar to all those who have considered buying an internet-enabled digital device. The market for anti-virus software and malware protection is massive, with giants such as Kapersky employing international film star endorsers like Jackie Chan to advertise to millions of potential customers. Likewise, many consumers are drawn to Apple computers due to built-in protective functions that abolish the need for additional software protection. Whatever way you look at it, the message is clear: from the moment we turn on the power switch and go online, we’re making ourselves vulnerable to evil cyber criminals across the web. The widespread use of digital devices amongst members of our generation means that young students and professionals are prime targets for companies selling anti-virus software.
However, research conducted by scientists at US Universities suggests that the dangers of the internet and connectivity don’t stop at computer viruses and malware. Several research groups have investigated the varying effects of technology on human health. Freely available apps may promote inertia and weight gain in young children and teenagers, while addiction to smartphone, iPads and laptop computers has been touted as a future epidemic. While the motives behind these negative studies are universally considered noble, many commentators are concerned that their results might be misappropriated to support a push towards obsessive security.
Technology clearly represents a double-edged sword, and anecdotal accounts of its misuse – in risky adolescents and naive children – should not necessarily warrant intervention from governments. Scientific research offers an unbiased and robust means of assessing the short- and long-term effects of technology use on human health. We’re now reaching a position where we can dispassionately assess the pros and cons of modern technology, but must do so in a balanced and informed fashion.