Defining digital wellbeing

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term “digital wellbeing”?  For some it might be email overload, fake news, fitness tracker bands or the Google app that lets you “see a complete picture of your digital habits and disconnect when you want to”.  There are many connotations, bringing both positive and negative aspects of technology and how it affects our lives.

For us, in the Jisc digital capability team, “digital wellbeing” is one of the elements of the digital capability framework. It was originally defined as:

“The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings; to use digital tools in pursuit of personal goals (e.g. health and fitness) and to participate in social and community activities; to act safely and responsibly in digital environments; to negotiate and resolve conflict; to manage digital workload, overload and distraction; to act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital tools. An understanding of the benefits and risks of digital participation in relation to health and wellbeing outcomes.”

Revising the definition

Recently we have revisited the definition as we wanted to broaden it to not only focus on the individual but also include a broader societal and institutional perspective.

Having conducted a short study, we have presented our revised definition of digital wellbeing at the APT conference in London in July 2019. It was very interesting to get feedback as well as hear about main institutional and individual challenges in this area.


We recognise that digital wellbeing is a complex concept that can be viewed from a variety of perspectives and has several aspects within a range of contexts and hope that the new definition covers that:

“Digital wellbeing considers the impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical and emotional health.

We can view this from an individual perspective in personal, learning or work contexts. This means understanding and identifying the positive and negative impacts of engaging with digital activities and being aware of ways to manage and control these to improve wellbeing.

We can also view digital wellbeing from a broader societal or organisational perspective where service providers need to recognise and take responsibility for ensuring that digital systems, services or content are well managed, supported, accessible and equitable. They also need to empower and build capability in their staff, service users and partners to engage with these in a way that supports and or improves their wellbeing.”

Get involved

We would love to hear your feedback on the new definition of digital wellbeing as well as hear about what support colleges and universities need in supporting the digital wellbeing of their staff and students. Please post comments below, via Twitter #digitalwellbeing or email (

We will be introducing our work around digital wellbeing at ALT-C (Wednesday 15.30 in the main hall). For further discussions and a briefing paper sharing the outcomes of our work so far please join us at the digital capability community of practice event in Edinburgh on 27th November. You can also follow this work by subscribing to our new mailing list.

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