It’s easy to demonise technology when we are talking about wellbeing – and certainly recent leaps in technology have certainly raised a lot of concerns for parents and for teachers.
We are swamped with stories of young people so addicted to gaming they neglect their physical needs, stories of online bullying and predation, and sexualization of young women and sexting and too-easy access to porn and the list goes on… Certainly young people today have more challenges than any of us faced in the past, and technology plays a large role in this.
However, we also need to acknowledge that technology can and is playing an important role in terms of supporting wellbeing as well. There is a lot to consider here – and we would be happy to converse with others around these ideas – and to feature any that come to mind once you read this.
Here are just three ways in which technology can be a valuable tool to support wellbeing.
Encouraging Self-Monitoring and Wellbeing Awareness
In each of our pockets is a device that can measure and track our health and wellbeing – 30 years ago this would have been unheard of as we strapped giant pedometers onto the waistbands of our pants and walked around. Now, our phones do this, train us to run 5km, track our sleep and our water consumption, give us new fitness goals, help us engage with an online yoga class and allow us access our end of the evening meditation. We may use a combination of any of these features each day.
In Senior School we also have our thrice-weekly Skodel check-ins that help us all monitor each other in terms of mood and take control of patterns in our wellbeing. Through Skodel we can seek help, read about our wellbeing and access the wisdom of experts such as Andrew Fuller to give us advice about staying positive.
Providing Easy Ways to Connect
Connection is important to us all – and while the days of young people playing in the street together for hours each night are sadly gone, they may play with each other for hours on a weekend on Fortnite or Call of Duty or any other game that might be capturing their fancy.
They may also be using social media to message a friend from another suburb or to stay in touch with grandparents interstate. Who could have done without social media in those long 2020 lockdowns?
A quick message, a like of a photo or an interesting link can let someone know you are still there and still care despite physical distance.
We even learnt how to work in teams remotely last year, using Teams, Zoom and more to connect to solve problems and discuss issues.
Used with guidance and good will – there are more positive possibilities here than negatives.
Access to Information and Support
All the information at the world is now at our fingertips -and while that has deep impact for teachers, it can be an incredible support and resource.
Every child who feels they may not meet a stereotype, can find and read a story of someone just like them – and realise they are not alone.
Every child who feels they are hard done by can look at footage of staring children or persecuted women in other parts of the world – and can realise just how much they have.
The online world has crucial tools for empathy and understanding – including self-understanding.
It also just allows the mind to be stimulated. How can anyone be bored in this brave new world? There are new TED Talks every day, and countless videos on YouTube that allow us to learn any skill we desire – and to look after ourselves.
Allowing the Capacity to Create
Creativity draws us closer to our real self – it helps us express ourselves and communicate our feelings rather than bottle them up.
Technology has allowed us countless new ways to be creative including:
The technology can both be the art, and the way the art is expressed.
In addition to this, Dr Adam Price suggests that young people need the 3Cs to mature and flourish. The first is COMPETENCE – the belief in their own capacity to achieve. The second is CONTROL – a sense of choice and autonomy, and the third is CONNECTION – something so vital that this site promotes it as a daily necessity.
Consider the vital role technology may play in all three of these crucial aspects.
Gaming for example allows young people to both connect and feel competent. This is particularly important for those young people who feel they excel neither at school nor in athletics – their mastery of an online game earns them respect and admiration from their peers. They feel that sense of achievement in this regard.
For all the evils of social media – largely young people just want to connect with each other on it. They may occasionally go about it the wrong way by posting deliberating provocative things – but they are in fact looking to interact with each other. Some trust and privacy on these sites also makes them feel that sense of control they may be seeking as well – as do all kinds of self-monitoring apps.
Composing something on Garageband or editing a photo on Photoshop creates a kind of opportunity for competency that we never had the capacity to in our childhoods – when we needed a studio or a dark room to achieve similar results.
Technology isn’t going anywhere and it may be time that we are thoughtfully mindful about the possible positives rather than constantly fearing the negatives.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels