It is estimated by the Office for National Statistics that in 2020, 89% of adults in the UK used the internet daily. With so much time being spent online by so many, it is important that individuals and organisations recognise the importance of Digital Wellbeing.
Jisc describes Digital Wellbeing as “The capacity to:
- look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings
- use digital tools in pursuit of personal goals (eg health and fitness) and to participate in social and community activities
- act safely and responsibly in digital environments; negotiate and resolve conflict
- manage digital workload, overload and distraction
- act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital tools.”
With this in mind, below are some questions about your digital wellbeing, and tips for setting boundaries in the online world.
Work/Life balance boundaries:
Think about: Do you have work related apps on personal devices? Do you check and/or answer emails after your designated work hours? Or do you find it hard to focus on work and get distracted by social media and other tabs?
- Removing all work-related apps and notifications from personal devices-if its not a requirement for your role to use your personal device, you do not need to have them on there. Making sure you have a clear divide between work and home is important to feel autonomy over your time and is important for digital wellbeing. If you do have to have work related content on your personal devices, make sure you sign out fully at the end of the working day, to ensure you don’t get disrupted by notifications.
- Using extensions such as OneTab, that condenses all open tabs into one page of links, which as well as freeing up computer memory, also declutters your browser and can help you to focus on one thing. Zen Pen is a website that has a low-distraction space for writing and allows you to set word count goals to keep you focused. Other apps and extensions can limit time you spend on specific sites, play background sounds that can help you focus, and minimize distractions by muting notifications.
Social media boundaries:
Think about: Do you spend more time than you would like to on social media? Could you go a whole day without using it? Do you follow or interact with accounts that have a negative impact on you? Do people have access to information about your life that you are not comfortable with?
- Try to take note of how much time you spend on social media; in a day and week-multiply this to see how much time you could be spending on social media in a year and evaluate how you feel about this.
- Some phones have settings (such as the digital balance feature on Android phones), that record how long you spend on apps, and let you set limits for individual apps, as well as limits on daily screen time.
- Google yourself: See what information about you is in the public domain, and assess how you feel about friends, family and colleagues having access to it.
- Spend time going through social media and removing any friends/followers/accounts that are not impacting you in a positive way. If you don’t want to make a permanent change, you can mute people or limit what they can view.
Boundaries with others:
Do you get annoyed when colleagues or students contact you out of your working hours? Do you respond? Do you get distracted by email notifications and immediately stop what you are doing to read them? Do you feel like you have to be contactable at all times, and be quick to respond to messages?
- Signing out of emails for periods of concentration and setting specific times to check them.
- Using your email signature to set out what your normal working hours are and stick to them. Responding to queries outside of this time sets a precedent, and others may start expecting you to be available at all hours. You can also use your status on Microsoft Teams to state your availability.
- If you do not want to be contacted by people on certain platforms, such as WhatsApp, tell them. If it is not a usual/expected platform for work, you do not need to justify your reasons. By limiting contact from work to channels that are solely for work use, you are strengthening the boundary between work and personal life, and helping your digital wellbeing.
- Try utilising the calendar in Blackboard- you can set up “office hours” for each module so students can see set times that you are available for.
Find about more about Making the most of the Calendar in Blackboard
Find about more about Notification settings in Teams
Habit trackers are a way of keeping yourself accountable when trying to set boundaries for yourself. They allow you create a routine and are a visual reminder of your progress with creating habits and healthy boundaries.
Try setting up a habit tracker which you can check regularly (maybe set a reminder in your email calendar), that records positive wellbeing things you do, and boundaries you have set. This will be personal to you, but could include:
- Avoiding screens after a certain time in the day
- Days spent entirely offline
- A day a month to go through social media and unfollow/mute/block accounts that you are not interacting with in a positive way.
- Times you have respected someone else’s digital boundary.
- Days where you set break times for yourself and stick to them.
Below are two examples of simple habit trackers made in Canva and Adobe Creative Cloud express, and there are lots of templates available online, as well as apps that have the same functionality, but will also set reminders for you, and can be more motivational than paper based templates as they have more interactivity.
If you would like more information and advice on digital wellbeing, The Learning Development Centre have a course on “Managing Online Overload”, which is an independent-study based course available on the MyLearning hub.
Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels.