Student wellbeing in a digital world

Ilia Lindsay, Registered Psychologist, Komodo Psychology Lead


Student wellbeing in a digital world



In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, the intersection of technology, wellbeing, and school environments has never been more profound. As students, families and educators embrace the digital age, it brings both transformative opportunities and complex challenges when it comes to wellbeing. 

Widespread internet availability has created a new reality for the way we connect, communicate, and access information.

  1. Connectivity and communication.
    We live in a world of pervasive availability of internet connectivity. This has allowed people to access information, communicate, and engage with digital content from virtually anywhere at any time. Through digital technologies, we have a medium to connect and communicate that didn't exist merely two decades ago.

  2. Access to information.
    The digital age has largely democratised access to information meaning that the average person can now easily search for and access vast amounts of information and resources online.

  3. Impact on our daily lives.
    Digital technology pervades every aspect of our daily lives, from our wrists and pockets to our workplaces and homes. While it has led to significant innovation and progress, there is also a notable negative impact that extends across various areas.

Difficulties of Wellbeing in a Digital World 

Whilst the use of technology in daily life has enabled greater access to information, the development of social connectivity in online communities and the invention of tools for inclusion and education; the adoption of increasingly new technologies in schools and at home is not without its challenges for students, staff and parents.  

  • Sleep disruption is a prominent concern, with the intrusion of phones and laptops into the bedroom severely affecting our circadian rhythms. Beyond the compromise of quality and quantity of sleep, the ripple effects of inadequate sleep touch upon every aspect of our cognitive and physical wellbeing.

  • Cyberbullying has also intensified in this digital era, as increased accessibility makes individuals more susceptible to anonymous forms of harassment. The online world plays a pivotal role in shaping adolescents' self-identities, influencing their decisions and behaviors. The rising prominence of social media and beauty standards has correlated with a surge in body image issues, self-acceptance struggles, and disordered eating patterns, affecting individuals of all ages across genders.

  • The fear of missing out (FOMO) has become a palpable headspace, generating a profound sense of discontentment and exclusion. This fear intersects with sleep disturbances, cyberbullying, and the overarching issue of distraction, which significantly hinders academic learning.

  • The connection between digital technology and our attention and cognitive skills. Excessive device use and prolonged screen time can disrupt our ability to concentrate and engage in deep, sustained thinking. The constant barrage of notifications and the rapid task-switching demanded by digital platforms contribute to difficulty with sustained attention and reduced opportunity for building emotion tolerance. 
  • Addiction to social media platforms and gaming can't be underestimated. Both platforms have the power to trigger the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward in our brains. This neurological response leads to a pursuit of instant gratification, a pattern we often observe in addiction behaviours. To put it in perspective, think about what happens when you try to take away a teenager's access to social media or the internet. It's a scene reminiscent of removing access to alcohol for someone battling substance abuse—excuses, irritation, emotional ups and downs, persuasive arguments, problem-solving attempts, and justifications abound.

  • The adverse impact of digital technology on mental health and wellbeing cannot be ignored, with research showing statistically significant negative correlations between the amount of screen time (especially on smartphones) and measures of psychological well-being. Adolescents who spent more time on screens reported lower levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness

Digital Technology and Wellbeing Support

Research shows us that digital technology can successfully be used to assess, monitor and support interventions when it comes to wellbeing and mental health. What we are talking about here is, using devices for monitoring through surveys or questionnaires that are completed electronically by young people. Using technology in this way results in easy-to-administer, cost and time effective processes.  Another benefit to using technology in this way is that we know that students are more engaged and able to be open and honest when completing online surveys when compared to paper based surveys.  From an intervention perspective, we are talking about apps, and interactive games that provide therapy activities, psycho-education and reflections. These could be mindfulness or gratitude based, cognitive behaviour therapy, mood trackers, strength trackers or dialectical behaviour therapy skills. Students report that they are more likely to engage in digital interventions because of reduced stigma, greater autonomy and familiarity.  When we look at the research evidence, there are a collection of studies which show that digital interventions can be beneficial for students struggling with self-harm, emotion regulation, anxiety, depression, social skills and decreasing the use of recreational drugs.

Research shows us that using digital technology to assess and/or monitor student wellbeing and mental health is cost and time effective and allows students to open up on a familiar medium. Students reportedly prefer to use digital technology for data collection of this kind because of the ease of use, discrete nature and a sense of increased autonomy. Research also shows us that we can use digital technology to deliver timely interventions to enhance student wellbeing and mental health.

It is not just doctors and therapists that can make the most of technology, schools and educators can too. Research shows us that schools can use digital technology to monitor and assess student wellbeing which leads to the delivery of more effective and better-timed interventions. If everyone is using it, why not make the most of it. Learning how to combine digital technology alongside in-person pastoral care support may just be a turning point for student wellbeing and mental health support.

Building Digital Literacy 

How do we find the balance when it comes to technology and students who are in a critical developmental period? The answer is introducing a solid digital literacy strategy in your classroom - when written language became the way to communicate, society shifted to teach and disperse this knowledge, so we need to do the same when it comes to digital literacy. We didn’t just teach people to write the same sentence, we taught the alphabet, we taught phonetics, and syntax so that people could use written language for a variety of things.  Teaching students about digital agency, risk and digital safety is crucial. We need to provide them with the knowledge and skills to navigate online spaces safely and responsibly, so we can help them make informed decisions and protect their digital wellbeing.

Digital literacy may include discussions around a range of topics encouraging critical thinking about online information and the safe use of technology. It’s important to encourage students to be responsible digital citizens. 

Download our FREE Digital Literacy & Wellbeing Topics Guide below for a practical breakdown of key topics to address with your students!

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, finding the equilibrium between embracing technology and nurturing digital literacy is a critical endeavour. By doing so, we equip students with the tools needed to navigate the digital age with confidence, resilience, and a keen sense of digital wellbeing. At Komodo, we know this is a community effort. There is a role for teachers, students and the wider school community when it comes to digital literacy and protecting digital wellbeing. We encourage you to continue this conversation with your school network and work in collaboration to create a “safety net” so that digital technologies can be used for good. 

Is your school using digital technology to support student wellbeing? Are you working toward the balance of technology and wellbeing? 

If you would like to explore this further, book a demo call with one of the Komodo team today. 


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