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Disconnect to connect: Towards a healthier relationship with digital technologies across work, school, and family contexts.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become indispensable in our work, school, and family environments. Despite benefits, recent research points at risks following from being U+2018permanently connectedU+2019. Scholars and practitioners increasingly suggest U+2018digital disconnectionU+2019 as a solution: By placing (temporary) limits on ICT usage, people might reclaim control over productivity, social relationships, and well-being. While the industry is responding rapidly to the growing demand for digital disconnection, research on its effectiveness is remarkably scarce. Moreover, evidence shows mixed results, underscoring our lacking knowledge of which disconnection practices work, why, for whom and when. Thus, this project develops and empirically validates a digital disconnection theory - suitable for work, school, and family contexts. It addresses (a) what people do to disconnect (content-U+2018howU+2019), (b) why people disconnect (process-U+2018whyU+2019), and (c) for whom (person-U+2018whoU+2019) and (d) under which conditions disconnection works (context-U+2018whenU+2019). Model development occurs via a thorough literature review within the different research streams investigating digital (dis)connection. An innovative interview study refines the model by identifying commonalities and differences in digital disconnection strategies, the needs they address, and obstacles experienced across contexts. Next, drawing from a U+2018best fitU+2019 idea, an intensive longitudinal study tests whether digital disconnection is more successful when chosen strategies (U+2018howU+2019) (1) are adequate and proportional to why individuals wish to disconnect (U+2018how-whyU+2019 fit), (2) align with their personal characteristics (U+2018how-personU+2019 fit), and (3)conform to what their environment demands/encourages(U+2018howenvironmentU+2019 fit). Finally, we validate core findings with four field experiments. Findings aid stakeholders to support individuals in families, schools, and organizations in developing a healthier relationship with technology.

Date:1 Oct 2022 →  Today
Keywords:Disconnection, Social & political sciences, Work life balance, Digital wellbeing, Distraction, Social sciences & humanities, ICT use
Disciplines:Media and communication theory, Family studies, Science and health communication, Educational and school psychology, Work and organisational psychology