Written by Josephine Hart.
For this project I worked in partnership with David Harley, senior lecturer in applied social sciences and author of Cyberpsychology as Everyday Digital Experience across the Lifespan. We both felt that of the possible topics, we would be best suited to try and integrate topics of digital-wellbeing into the curriculum.
In our first meeting, we picked apart what was meant by “digital-wellbeing” and what issues might specifically affect the staff and students of Brighton university. We came up with four distinct areas:
● Digital Inclusion.
● Problematic Use.
● Engagement with Technology in a Social Learning Context.
In our next meeting, we delved a little deeper into each each of the above issues, and discussed the most effective way of disseminating this information. We identified that both staff and students would benefit from this information, and that we should focus our efforts within the school of applied social science as we felt we would have the most opportunity for impact here.
As the field of digital-wellbeing is still relatively new, we decided that conducting a small research project would be useful in our understanding of how digital technologies impact people within the university. With the support of David I designed a between groups experiment examining the effects of smartphone usage and presence within a social learning context. This research gained tier one ethical approval from the Cross-School Research Ethics Committees (CRECs) and the External REC Review Panel (ERRP). Sixty participants were recruited for this study from the school of applied social sciences and humanities respectively. The findings from this study were that people felt more socially connected when their smartphones were put away. This was an interesting finding as it furthers the debate on whether or not smartphones should be restricted in certain places or during certain activities. From a digital-wellbeing point of view it is certainly worth considering the social and psychological impact of being in a phone present or phone free environment.
Following this experiment I gave a 15-minute presentation on “digital-wellbeing”, specifically focusing on problematic use of smartphones and social media, as well as some positive ways in which we can use technology.
Fig 1. iPhone Screentime App and Android Digital Wellbeing app.
Building on the interest generated by the first presentation, myself and David designed a second presentation and seminar activity on “Digital Kindness”. This was presented to first year psychology students enrolled in the psychology of wellbeing module. Unlike the first presentation “Digital Kindness” was designed to be an interactive experience, in which students used their phones to post comments and answer questions live during the talk.
Fig 2. Student comments: Interactive portion of the “digital kindness” seminar activity.
Overall I found this project extremely enjoyable. David was an invaluable in providing information and encouraging me to push my ideas further than I would have been comfortable otherwise. I found working in partnership with a member of academic staff extremely informative. I was also surprised by how much trust and independence I was allowed, and I really feel this helped me develop my professional skills.
Over the next few weeks, we will be working on transforming the materials we have created into online resources for anyone to use, with the hope that they will provide information on digital well-being as well as an example of what can be achieved in a student/staff partnership.