Management & Leadership

What is Digital Wellness?

Feb 09, 2021 | By Saranne Durham

The digital world, with its never-ending addition of new apps and updates, constantly challenges our capacity to look after our personal online safety and maintain a healthy balanced relationship with technology. Digital wellness is a measure of how well we are able to do this. Essentially, it is the impact of digital devices and technology on a person’s mental, physical, emotion and social health.

“We need to decide how we manage our digital devices so that they don’t manage us.”

Laura Wilsonlaura

The digital era is here to stay. How we understand and manage ourselves, within the digital world, is entirely up to us. However, if we choose to be passive in our relationship with our digital devices, overtime they are most likely to take the driver’s seat and direct our time, interaction with family and friends as well as what information we are exposed to.

Why is Digital Wellness Important?

Technology has opened an amazing array of doors. It’s given us access to information and views into worlds we would otherwise never have been able to enjoy. However, the reality is that it has also unlocked pandora’s box and we are increasingly discovering its more convoluted side.  

Why Digital Devices can be Problematic

If left unchecked, our digital devices can disincentivise us to explore the natural world around us, interact with other people and try new things. Thereby negatively impacting our mental, physical, emotional and social wellbeing.

1. Screen Time can be Addictive

Apps and games are designed to provide enjoyment and promote pleasure. They are very successful at doing this, because they cause dopamine (a “happy” hormone) to be released in our brain. Thus, with minimal effort we can feel good through an easy dopamine-fix and we are incentivised to increase our screen time, which causes more dopamine to be released. Quite quickly, this can become an addictive cycle.

2. Screen Time can Isolate Us

Without a doubt, digital devices are amazing at connecting people. Especially with those far away. Paradoxically, they can also disconnect us from those we are physically closest to. It’s a lot easier to manage our online persona and the information we share about our lives through social media platforms, than it is to cultivate and maintain an in-person relationship with someone.

3. Screen Time can Negatively Impact our Physical Health

Spending long stretches of time on a digital device decreases the amount of physical activity we do. A lack of physical activity, even for those who don’t have pre-existing risk factors, is quite likely to result in a range of health problems. For example: back and neck pain, high blood pressure, heart problems and weight issues. 

As screen time tends to run away with us it can easily impact how much sleep we get. Some studies have also shown that if our phone is close to us when we sleep, our sleep quality is impacted due to our brains continuous “monitoring” and awareness of the phone. Sleep deprivation has been known to cause weakened immunity, memory and concentration issues and weight gain amongst other health challenges.

4. Screen Time can Negatively Impact our Mental Health

The average person receives 60-85 notifications via their smartphones per day. While these notifications may prevent you from missing out on what’s happening, they are also linked to heightened anxiety and stress levels. Studies further reveal that smartphone addictions have links to an increased risk of depression and social media can influence suicide related behaviour.

Why Technology and Digital Devices can be an Asset:

  1. Smart phones have augmented communication channels, enabling easier visual, verbal and “written” communication.
  2. Fitness devices can incentivise healthier lifestyles.
  3. Health tracking devices allow for better health care through improved monitoring of vital signs.
  4. Digital devices allow for increased access to information.
  5. Online learning has opened doors to many people who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to classes, lectures, seminars and tutors.
  6. Digital devices increase general efficiency by enabling employees to produce better quality work at a faster rate, for example: a typewriter vs computer.
  7. Apps have expanded service provision, for example, from banks, governments and regulatory authorities.
  8. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) helps save time by giving us the most efficient directions.
  9. Technology enables increased and faster mobility between places and countries.
  10. Online shopping increases our access to a wider variety of products.

What does Digital Health and Wellness Mean?

Digital health and wellness is focused on how to establish and then maintain a healthy relationship with technology. It is about being in control of the technology we have access to and establishing a way for digital devices to work for our wellbeing instead of them inadvertently becoming dictators in our lives.

“Digital Health seeks to leverage the benefits of technology while curtailing its potential harm.”

Digital health and wellness means getting to a point where technology promotes optimal mental, physical and emotional health as well as positively impacting our social lives. Thereby allowing us to enjoy the full benefits of digital communities without forsaking our in-person relationships or natural world around us.

10 Ways to Establish Digital Wellbeing

  1. Remove Notifications.
  2. Schedule daily screen-free time.
  3. Monitor your screen time via an app.
  4. Use filters to manage and safeguard against harmful content.
  5. Be selective and invest in technology that enhances your lifestyle.
  6. Actively protect your online privacy by reading through T&Cs and using security software.
  7. Have a household agreement relating to the use of digital devices.
  8. Employ a loan instead of own principle when it comes to a minor’s access to digital devices.
  9. Encourage conversations and open communication, especially with kids, about online social interaction and cyberbullying.
  10. Be cautious and aware of what information, photos and videos you share, with whom, when and on what platforms.

Family Digital Wellness

While it is appropriate for a caregiver to train, guide, adjust and continually oversee a minor’s device; most parents are daunted by the thought of managing their children’s devices and online activities. With the ever-growing number of options, via apps that are continuously being updated or developed to be the latest best form of communication, being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start is understandable.

A leading family digital wellness organisation, Be in Touch supplies free downloadable material, provides information and runs courses to assist families with their digital wellbeing. Digital wellness expert Josh Ramsey, co-founder of Be in Touch and a SACAP alumna, talks of three tenants to assist in maintaining your family’s digital wellness:

  1. Educate: Healthy digital habits are an important life-skill that need to be learnt by parents, taught to kids and practiced as a family.
  2. Connect: Modern life necessitates online interaction. Learning how to appropriately connect with other people online, as well as to understand the impact using online platforms can have on emotional and mental health is a vital skill to foster.
  3. Protect: Content and access to the digital world should be discussed, monitored and curtailed. With some sites and games completely restricted.

Every year in February, Safer Internet Day (SID) takes place. The expressed purpose of having a Safer Internet Day is to create awareness and encourage safer and more responsible use of technology, particularly for children and young people, across the world.

Are you interested in learning more about coaching and mentoring, and how these skill sets can be used to assist with family wellness? SACAP offers a range of coaching courses, including the two-year Post Graduate Diploma in Coaching, and the five-month Coach Practitioner Programme. To find out more, enquire now.

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