Supporting digital wellbeing discussions with students

Being aware of how we use technology and how its use can affect us has never been more important in terms of living and working sustainably.  This resource is intended to support conversations to raise awareness and check in on how students are managing their digital wellbeing.  Conversation prompts, as well as optional activities and further resources are included.  The activities described are from Jisc’s Supporting learners’ digital identity and wellbeing workshop.

A student-facing version of these resources is available through The University of Manchester Library's My Learning Essentials.

What is digital wellbeing?

Digital wellbeing is one of six digital capabilities, defined by Jisc, that “equip someone to live, learn and work in a digital society.”  Jisc’s definition of digital wellbeing “considers the impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical and emotional health.”

In their Learner Role Profile, Jisc outline what this can look like for students’ digital wellbeing:
“A digitally capable learner will:

  • Use digital technologies in ways that support personal development, wellbeing and safety, and respect the wellbeing and safety of others
  • Act positively against cyberbullying and other damaging online behaviours
  • Consider the rights and wrongs and the possible consequences of online behaviour
  • Use digital tools and media in ways that are aligned with personal values and goals
  • Use digital media to access services, monitor health conditions, and participate in the community
  • Recognise that digital information and media can cause distraction, overload and stress, and disconnect when necessary
  • Manage online and real-world interactions in ways that support healthy relationships

Discussing students’ digital wellbeing

For students to be proactive and deliberate in managing their digital wellbeing, they need to understand what does and does not work for them in their use of digital, what the challenges are to their wellbeing and how they can mitigate against them.

In terms of discussing wellbeing, we already have the Manchester Six Ways to Wellbeing which can be used to guide conversations with students to explore how their use of digital affects their wellbeing.
How is their use of digital preventing or encouraging their abilities to take notice / connect / be active / learn and discover, etc.

The following model from Jisc can also be useful in framing discussions around the pros and cons of how they are using different technologies in the context of their wellbeing.

Jisc’s Model showing four aspects of digital wellbeing for individuals


Ask students to consider the following:

  • How aware are they of the impact their digital practices have on their wellbeing? What could they do to raise their awareness?
  • What are the pros and cons of the technologies they use on their wellbeing?
  • What are their priorities are for their digital wellbeing? For studying and for home and how will they separate the two?

In considering what actions may be useful to take to mitigate the effects of technologies on their wellbeing, students may wish to review the following:

  • Monitoring and breaking up screen-time
  • Monitoring notification settings – being selective about what is and isn’t allowed to break their concentration and when. Apps are available that block notifications for specific time periods.

Discussing preparing for online learning
It is important for students to prepare physically as well as mentally to be able to take full advantage of their online learning opportunities.  The below prompts, created by Dr Sarah Shepherd, are intended to encourage students to consider their studying environment and preparations.


Ask students to consider the following:

  • What do you need to allow you to be present for the whole session?
  • Try to block off some time before and after your timetabled online sessions and use this time to walk around, get a drink / food, reflect and prepare for what’s next.
  • Be aware of your background and lighting – try to provide a plain background.
  • Can you be overheard? Do you need headphones?
  • Is your screen at eye level? When will you need an ‘eye break’?
  • Are you comfortable to work? How long for?  Set up your workspace to be as physically comfortable and distraction free as possible for studying.
  • Ensure notifications, such as emails are muted / turned off to avoid any sound interference or distraction.


3 things for wellbeing

Ask students to consider what 3 things they could keep next to their computer to support their wellbeing.

A note on social media

Social media is part of everyday life and there are many positives to its use.  The negative aspects of social media, from inherent biases with the ‘filter bubble effect’ and FOMO to trolling and bullying and their detrimental effects on mental health, have been widely publicised.  Should a student raise issues around this, please encourage them to report any incident and seek further support, e.g. through the Counselling Service.

Activity: Encouraging a ‘SMART’ approach to social media

Asking students to consider what they are making available via social media and working through the discussion items in the table can give social media users some guidance around getting the most out of its use and thinking about boundaries.

SMART Approach by Scott Hibberson:

Settings Know your settings – Private vs. Open
Media What platform is right for the message?  Familiarise yourself with the platform and rules of engagement before joining in.
Audience Who is the audience for this post?
Regularity How often are you sharing on social media? You may want to maintain your digital reputation, but not at the expense of other commitments and wellbeing.
Timing When are you posting?  Is your intended audience available then?