How does modern technology support, mediate, or undermine human wellbeing?

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The Australian Government recommend as little as 2 hours of screen time per day for children aged 5-17 with a view to greater screen time having corresponding detrimental health outcomes (Australian Government, 2017).  In parallel, the darker aspects of technology are widely reported in the media, particularly in relation to young people, including technology addiction, promotion of risky behaviours, and cyberbullying. However, a multitude of technologies have emerged that pertain to support human wellbeing both physical and psychological (e.g., smartwatches). In addition, therapeutic interventions mediated through technology aim to proactively support positive wellbeing and mitigate against mental health problems have emerged, for example mobile apps, dedicated VR experiences, and A.I. chatbots.

How should wellbeing be defined? What does the landscape look really look like and what can be confidently said about the role of digital technology in human wellbeing? Finally, are current recommendations realistic or even based on sound evidence?

Australian Government Department of Health (2017, November 22). Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.  Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Dr Dan Loton

Victoria University 
@DanLoton

Dr Dan Loton is a researcher in the Connected Learning Department at Victoria University. Dan completed his PhD at Victoria University on the topic of video game addiction (Internet Gaming Disorder) and wellbeing. Throughout his PhD he also taught within an educational development unit, and supported diverse educational research projects ranging from the primary to tertiary sectors. In 2016 Dan began a two-year postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Centre for Positive Psychology at The University of Melbourne, investigating how parents and education systems can cultivate wellbeing. On conclusion he returned to VU, where he will be primarily investigating the role of innovative curriculum models in supporting student success. He has a strong interest in technology use and wellbeing, and non-cognitive factors in education.

Sonja MarchAssociate Professor Sonja March

University of Southern Queensland
@sonja_march

Associate Professor Sonja March is a researcher and clinical psychologist who leads the ‘Innovative Mental Health Solutions’ Research Program at USQ that examines innovative methods for evaluating and delivering health and mental health assessments and interventions with a strong focus on regional areas. The overall focus of her research is to address issues relating to the health and mental health service access, primarily utilising technology to overcome barriers to care. She is part of the BRAVE-ONLINE Team (UQ, USQ, GU) who have been evaluating online, CBT programs for youth anxiety since 2001. In the child and family area, she is working with USQ colleagues to develop and evaluate digital, animation-based instruments to assess for emotional and behavioural problems. Sonja is also part of a team examining online programs to promote resiliency and wellbeing in medical doctors.

Neil MartinDr Neil Martin (Chair)

Digital Life Lab
University of Southern Queensland

@neilmart

Dr Neil Martin is a technology expert and researcher with eighteen years’ experience of working in web development and learning technologies in both UK and Australian Higher Education. His research interests are in understanding how technology can be harnessed to make a positive contribution to people’s lives and allow them to flourish. His PhD thesis examined the design and evaluation of an open online course on the psychology of elite sport performance delivered to over 1000 participants. This research guided the creation of a course that fostered intrinsic motivation and optimised engagement based on self-determination theory, which specifies the variables fundamental to high quality motivation, engagement, and positive well-being. His present role as a Senior Digital Innovator involves being part of an interdisciplinary team investigating and understanding the potential impact, challenges and opportunities of new and emerging digital technologies in everyday life.

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