Boston Children’s Hospital announced the launch of the Digital Wellness Lab, a first-of-its-kind research and innovation incubator bringing together science-based solutions and information about the effects of digital technology on our brains, bodies, and behaviors. With a massive increase in the number of kids spending more than six hours online daily, and unknowns looming around the worsening mental health and wellbeing of children and families, research-based solutions are needed more than ever.
An evolution of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, the Digital Wellness Lab released its 2021 Family Digital Wellness Guide. This comprehensive, research-based resource was created to address parents’ and caregivers’ concerns, to clarify confusion, and to empower families to be actively involved in their children’s digital lives at every stage of development. The Digital Wellness Lab conducted a pulse survey to measure how the pandemic lockdown year has affected kids’, parents’ and families’ digital behaviors and wellness. The results of this national survey, also launched in a report today, will serve to guide the Lab’s efforts in its inaugural year.
Equally important to the work the Lab does every day to find answers and help children and families in need, the longer-term goal is to be a central hub where research findings can be aggregated, translated into practical recommendations, and shared, not just in health care, but among the major teaching, technology and entertainment platforms where children are spending the majority of their waking hours.
“The cacophony of opposing opinions on digital use and the impact of screens on children often leaves us confused, overwhelmed and wary,” said Boston Children’s Hospital’s Michael Rich, MD, MPH, founder of the Digital Wellness Lab and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “We need something better than opinions. The Digital Wellness Lab is a hub for unbiased, scientific research and tools at your fingertips that parents, and all users, need now. This knowledge will allow us to synergize rather than criticize, working together with technology innovators and content creators to build a digital environment that promotes individual and societal wellness.”
The Digital Wellness Lab brings together global innovators, thought leaders, and supporters from technology to public health, neuroscience to entertainment, psychology to policy making. Together, they are creating the system necessary to produce and sustain a continuous stream of science-based information focused on the digital wellness of individuals and society through:
- Researching how the interactive media technologies we use and the way we use them affect human development and our physical, mental and social health.
- Educating and empowering supporters, from children and parents to tech innovators, content producers to clinicians, educators to policymakers, with evidence-based guidance, living strategies, tools, and best practices for media and technology use that promote wellness and healthy human development.
- Understanding, characterizing, preventing and treating media use-related disorders, developing clinical protocols to recognize and respond to problematic interactive media use, creating tools for educators, and recommending strategies for parents caring for children in a digital age.
- Innovating in synergy with technology developers, content creators and educators to shape a digital environment that supports the wellness of children, adolescents and adults.
“We all need to start thinking about how our behaviors with digital devices affect our physical and mental health,” said Kristelle Lavallee, Senior Content Strategist at the Digital Wellness Lab. “Digital wellness needs to be addressed as a critical part of overall health and wellbeing in today’s world.”
Digital Wellness Lab supporters include: Age of Learning, The Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alpha Edison, Amazon Kids, Facebook, Facebook Reality Labs, The combined organization of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Instagram, Noggin, Optum, Roblox, Ruderman Family Foundation, Sesame Workshop, TikTok, Trend Micro and Walt Disney Television.
ABOUT BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
Boston Children’s Hospital is ranked the #1 children’s hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. Today, 3,000 researchers and scientific staff, including 9 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 members of the National Academy of Medicine and 12 Howard Hughes Medical Investigators comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s is now a 415-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care.