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Tonight: Is Technology Taking Over Our Lives?

In the last decade, digital technology has transformed the way we live, work and communicate.

But some leading neuroscientists are warning that over-dependence on devices like smart phones, tablets and laptops could be having a negative impact on our behaviour.

Tonight Jonathan Maitland asks: is technology taking over our lives?

Jonathan Maitland investigates the potential consequences of an over-dependence on technology for the Tonight programme

Just a few decades ago none of us had access to the amount of technology available today, even basic computers were out of most people's reach but now they fit into the palms of our hands.

They have transformed the way we live, from our personal relationships to our working habits, but has the balance tipped too far; have we become slaves to the screen?

Jonathan meets Katie and Stuart Brown both 26-years old and new parents to baby Willow.

Katie admits to being a social networking addict and can be online for up to 12 hours a day, while husband Stuart is a keen online gamer.

The couple recognise that their time spent online is having an impact on their relationship.

In order to discover whether their relationship would improve without their gadgets we decided to pull the plug on their digital world.

For one weekend there would be no virtual worlds, texts, tweets or updates, laptops, mobile phones, games consoles and the internet.

We find out how they fare after their digital detox!

Katie and Stuart face up to a weekend without their gadgets

Jonathan talks to leading neuroscientist Professor Susan Greenfield to examine what impact technologies such as the internet, social media and computer games are having on the brain.

I think it's as global and as long-reaching and as important to every aspect of our lives, as is climate change

– Professor Susan Greenfield
Professor Greenfield examines brain scans as she looks into the effects of technology.

After viewing the results of a Chinese study on internet addiction, Professor Greenfield has called for more research to be done in this important area.

It is not just at home we have to be concerned. Our working lives could also be affected by our reliance on digital technologies; being constantly "connected" for many may mean an inability to ever switch off from work.

Mike Brogan is the chief executive of Procure Plus, a Manchester-based company that works in social housing and regeneration.

He is concerned that his team spend too long working online, after hours. And he also worries about their dependence on email to communicate with each other.

Mike has agreed that things need to change so he has asked work psychologist Professor Cary Cooper from Lancaster University to help reduce his team’s reliance on their gadgets.

For one week in this office there will be no internal email and working outside of office hours will be banned.

Will a week without email prove to be too much for Mike’s employees?

But for growing numbers of people technology is an integral and much welcomed part of life, with many prepared to go to great lengths to get their hands on the latest piece of kit.

Now more than 40% of adults and 60% of teenagers own a smartphone, more a hand-held computer than a phone.

Jonathan meets Dan and Eamon who have been queuing for 48 hours to be one of the first in line to buy the latest smartphone: the much-coveted iPhone 5.

In an exclusive Tonight survey of 2000 people, 62% of those questioned believed technology had changed their life for the better.

Technology helps Barry West live independently despite being paralysed from the neck down.

Which is certainly true for Barry West.

17 years ago he was a fit and healthy teenager, until a road accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

For the last thirteen years he has lived independently, and relies heavily on technology for his day-to-day living and to stay in touch with family and friends.

He also uses the internet to help others with spinal injuries.

I’ve started using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, I’ve done a website as well to show people that people like myself having an injury are not sort of closed in even though they might feel alone at home sometimes.

– Barry West

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Tonight: Is Technology Taking Over Our Lives? ITV1 at 7.30pm