Understanding children’s and families’ wellbeing in a digital world

Our new report – Children and families’ wellbeing in a digital world: A four-dimensional model looks at the connection between the ever-increasing use of connected technology and wellbeing within families

An overview

At Internet Matters, our vision is to inspire and collaborate to create a future where children and young people are prepared to benefit safely from the impact of connected technology. As homes become increasingly digitally-mediated, the need to more fully evaluate the relationship between digital technology and wellbeing has become even more acute. As a result, we embarked on a project to gain a deeper understanding of how digital wellbeing manifests itself in children and young people within different types of family, and how we can best support them in a fast-changing digital landscape.

We first sought to define what digital wellbeing really means in a family context and commissioned Dr Diane T. Levine at the University of Leicester to undertake a literature review and consultation, supported by our own focus groups with parents and teens. This document, ‘Children and families’ wellbeing in a digital world: a four-dimensional model’ is the result of this process.

Towards wellbeing in a digital world

The pandemic has shifted societal debate from ‘digital wellbeing’ to the more nuanced concept of ‘wellbeing in a digital world’. ‘Digital wellbeing’ implies digitally-mediated wellbeing has clear boundaries and is therefore more easily targeted through intervention. In contrast, ‘wellbeing in a digital world’ acknowledges the complicated world in which our children and young people grow and change.

Taking in voices and viewpoints across the education sector, technology and media industries, policy, the academy, third sector and local authorities as well as families themselves, the document proposes the following definition:

Wellbeing in a digital world means the processes and pathways for accessing the benefits of digital participation, in ways that manage risks and maximise opportunities to us all. Wellbeing in a digital world includes the relationships between digital participation and developmental, emotional, physical, and social wellbeing. It happens in the context of a wider world. It applies to everyone. It changes all the time.

A family focus

While the focus of this project is on the family and ultimately supporting parents to self-assess their family wellbeing in a digital context and providing tools to support them, the report also acknowledges that the burden is not just on parents. Everybody is responsible for managing the risk and making the most of the opportunities for these aspects of wellbeing in a digital world – individual, families, communities, policymakers, professionals and technology designers and developers.

Rachel Huggins, Strategy Director at Internet Matters said: “This is a critical piece of work which will inform our future strategy and adds to the collective conversation on this topic. As our work in this area progresses towards a measurement framework and tailored advice for families, we believe it will help to inform interventions at policy, practice and family levels to produce meaningful outcomes for all.”

Read the full report here.

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