Digital Wellness: Integrating Wellness in Everyday Life with Digital Content and Learning Technologies

Digital Wellness: Integrating Wellness in Everyday Life with Digital Content and Learning Technologies

Chadwick Royal (North Carolina Central University, USA), Suzan Wasik (North Carolina Central University, USA), Robert Horne (North Carolina Central University, USA), Levette S. Dames (North Carolina Central University, USA) and Gwen Newsome (North Carolina Central University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2000-9.ch006


Are you addicted to your phone? Using the term “addiction” when discussing activities involving technologies is a metaphor. It is intended to portray behaviors that are similar to what is experienced during a drug addiction (Essig, 2012), but it is not an actual addiction. Granted, the metaphor is successful because it relates the experience of being “out of control”. It is proposed that counselors and educators approach problematic behavior from more of a perspective of “wellness” and healthy behaviors - as opposed to approaching it from an addiction model or concept. Digital Wellness is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual using technology is capable of achieving. The purpose of this chapter is to present the Digital Wellness Model (Royal, 2014) and provide recommendations for how the model can be implemented by users of technology. Specific strategies for promoting digital wellness are shared.
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Ninety-seven percent of young adults (ages 19-29) in the United States (regardless of income) use the internet (Pew Research Internet Project, 2014). Eighty-one percent of adults in America say that they use a laptop or a desktop computer somewhere in their lives—at home, work, school, or someplace else. Fifty-three percent of internet users indicate that the internet would be very hard to “give up”, sixty-one percent of this group indicating that being online was essential for job related (or other) reasons (Pew Research Center, 2014).

Seventy-three percent of online adults and eighty-one percent of online teenagers use a social networking site of some sort (Pew Research Center, 2013). In 2009, more than half of online teens logged onto their favorite social media site more than once per day, and twenty-two percent logged on their favorite social media site more than ten times per day. Social media, and the internet, have been said to redefine the process by which teens communicate and disclose personal information (Farber, Shafron, Hamadani, Wald, & Nitzburg, 2012). The internet is used in so many communicate, socialize, meet people, to be entertained, play games, to learn or educate, and to work. People use digital technology on a daily basis to access information, solve problems, and develop as humans (Ayas & Horzum, 2013).

In the past several years, researchers have used an addiction concept to explain an imbalance in activities utilizing technologies (gaming, online pornography, social media, and general Internet use). It is considered more of a “behavioral addiction” in that the individual is not addicted to a substance, does not have the physical signs of a substance addiction, but they have certain symptoms and will undergo the same consequences brought about by addiction to alcohol and drugs (Alavi et al., 2012). Some of the consequences: Depression, withdrawal, social anxiety, isolation, obsessive thoughts, and disturbances in social relationships - just to name a few (Alavi et al., 2012; Farber et al., 2012; Ha, Chin, Park, Ryu, & Yu, 2008; Watson, 2005).

However, when mental health professionals use the term “addiction”, they do so with specific diagnostic criteria. To classify “Internet Addiction” as an addiction means that the nature and causes of the problematic behavior - and the prognosis and treatment - are the same as other addictions. This is a misconception. Using the term “addiction” when discussing activities involving technologies is a metaphor. It is intended to portray compulsive, impulsive, self-destructive, and isolating behaviors - similar to what is experienced during a drug addiction (Essig, 2012). It is a successful metaphor because it relates the experience of being “out of control”.

Too much use is suggested by some researchers and clinicians to be a problematic behavior (Watson, 2005). They claim that excessive users of technology may be so tied to their devices that it causes problems in relationships at home, work, or school. They may have periods of extended and excessive use - and are unable to decrease the amount of time they spend online. They may find it increasingly difficult to meet work, school, or domestic obligations (Watson, 2005). It is believed (by some) that select individuals, as a result of their use, may feel socially isolated and depressed. They may experience family conflict and academic or occupational problems. Baer, Saran, Green, and Hong (2012) claim that the overuse of electronic media (television, computer use, and gaming) has been consistently associated with the presence of psychiatric symptoms. Increased or excessive “screen time” in youth has been reportedly linked to obesity, musculoskeletal pain, sleep disruption, and loss of recreational activities (including sports, music, and unstructured play (Baer et al., 2012). There are other reported potential adverse consequences such as a decrease in school/work productivity, limited participation in household chores, and limited time spent with significant others (King, Delfabbro, & Griffiths, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emotions/Emotional Awareness/Coping (Digital Wellness Factor): Emotions, emotional awareness, and coping with emotions is defined as being able to experience a full range of emotions and are able to express them appropriately; enjoying positive emotions and managing negative emotions.

Physical Health and Self-care (Digital Wellness Factor): Physical health and self-care is defined as taking care of yourself physically, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, leading an active lifestyle, avoiding the abuse of harmful substances, drinking plenty of water, and incorporating relaxation time in a daily routine.

Sense of Worth (Digital Wellness Factor): Sense of worth is defined as our acceptance of self with our imperfections and shortcomings, our feelings of adequacy, and the recognition of our positive qualities.

Addiction: Substances and behaviors that, when taken or done in excess, directly activate the brain reward system. The substances and behaviors, by activating the reward system, produce feelings of pleasure. The substance or behavior produce such an intense activation of the brain reward system, that normal activities of life may be neglected or ignored. Lower levels of self-control are present. More and more time may be spent using the substance or engaging in the behavior – more than intended. There is a desire and unsuccessful efforts to cut down use. There are cravings for use, and continued use despite receiving negative consequences of use. There is a chance of increased tolerance before receiving feelings of pleasure – and withdrawal symptoms (discomfort/pain) when use is not possible.

Digital Wellness: A way of life, while using technology, that promotes optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live more fully within the human, natural, and digital communities. Ideally, it is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual using technology is capable of achieving.

Sense of Control or Self-Control (Digital Wellness Factor): Sense of control is defined as our beliefs about mastery, competence, and self-confidence; that we have the ability to control ourselves, possess willpower, and be able self-set limits.

Relationships (Digital Wellness Factor): Relationships, as a factor of Digital Wellness, is defined as having friends, feeling like you belong and cared for, and connected to others.

Stress Level/Stress Management (Digital Wellness Factor): Stress level/management is defined as the ongoing awareness and monitoring of life stressors, using mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral methods to cope with stress.

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