Sync whitepaper quantifies concerns over Gen Z's online obsession

Digital wellbeing program launches first global report and announces new studies focused on the younger generation, including research with Milano-Bicocca University and other credible entities

– Sync research finds that two thirds of young people (18-24-year olds, 58%) want to curb time spent online

– Over half of Gen Z respondents (54%) say they find technology use distracting

– Sync and partners will use innovative research methodologies to investigate the wellbeing impact of excessive internet and social media use on the younger generation

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Improving one’s health is traditionally a high priority at this time of year, and this increasingly means changing our online behaviours. As friends, families and colleagues look to reconnect in 2022, digital wellbeing program, Sync, has released a whitepaper exploring global developments in internet and social media habits. The program is prioritising research into understanding the impact of excessive use on young people – 58% of whom claim to spend more time online that they would like.

Abdullah Al-Rashid, Director of Sync says: “Sync’s research in collaboration with ASDA’A BCW and PSB Insights proves one of modern society’s greatest contradictions: the benefits, and potentially harmful effects, of our growing reliance on social media. No generation will be more greatly affected than those who have grown up using this technology, with the potential impact on the future of humanity as yet unknown. To help address this phenomenon, we are partnering with leading universities on developing solutions to promote young people’s digital wellbeing.”

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University in the UK said: “The latest report by Sync highlights both the advantages and disadvantages of increased time spent online worldwide. Although the positives outweigh the negatives, particularly in relation to social connectivity, the report highlights the potentially distracting nature of new technologies and how technology use can eat into other important activities including educational and occupational duties. I’ve been studying ‘technological addictions’ for 30 years and while the report does not examine the addictiveness of new technologies from a clinical perspective it certainly provides evidence that online technologies can be problematic to a minority, even if it’s not at the level of a clinically diagnosed condition.”

Data illustrates growing concern amongst young people

Sync’s first whitepaper[1], Global Digital Wellbeing Report 2021, illustrates how entrenched new media is in young people’s communications habits, in particular due to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Two-thirds of Gen Z respondents (58%) claim to spend more time online than they would like to, highlighting the potential adverse effects on physical and mental health. 
  • More than one in two (54%) young people say the technology in their life distracts them from day-to-day tasks. 
  • The overwhelming majority (69%) of 18-24 year olds say they use messaging apps more now than pre-pandemic, which could prevent reverting to direct contact as the impact abates. 

Reflecting on the research Dr. Griffiths continues: “The report provides very interesting perceptions of technology use with the majority thinking online addictions are medical conditions and that some types of technology – such as smartphones – are designed to be addictive even among older individuals. As a researcher I was also pleased to see that over 40% of respondents believe government should fund studies that focus on technological addictions and that the majority believe there should be more resources to treat such addictions. Three-quarters of the respondents thought their own governments should do more to provide high-quality and affordable care for online addictions. These kind of data indicate that online addictions appear to have now permeated public consciousness”

Novel research partnerships

Following this initial report, Sync is proactively exploring the effect of excessive internet and social media use on young adults. This includes future collaborations with University of Milano-Bicocca.

Sync’s collaboration with the Digital Wellbeing Research Center at University of Milano-Bicocca will use a holistic new approach to study college students’ relationship with their smartphones, including impact on concentration and anxiety in different social contexts. 

Marco Gui, Director of the Center, says: “Every university student today owns a smartphone, delivering connectivity past generations could only dream of. But at what cost? We’re grateful for Sync’s support for our new methodology to investigate the potentially beneficial and harmful effects of being permanently connected.”

Sync global digital wellbeing summit

The first Sync digital well-being summit will be held on March 29-30 2022, bringing together global thought leaders, institutions, influencers, and the public to raise awareness of digital wellbeing concerns, and develop new ideas to protect the users of digital media worldwide. To find out more, visit https://sync.ithra.com/.

Notes for Editors

Dave Gordon, CEO of PSB global says: “The first Sync Digital Wellbeing Study, covers one of the most important and burgeoning issues of our time – of how communities across the world are adapting to the transformational role of technology in our lives. The global reach of this study, which was fielded in June and July 2021 among more than 15,000 consumers, provides visibility into the regional and demographic nuances of the ways in which digital technologies are influencing and impact consumers across 30 countries. Together, PSB and SYNC will help inform policymakers, academics, the media, and the public on how emerging technologies will influence our future generations.”

Sunil Jones, President of BCW Middle-East says:”The first Sync Digital Wellbeing Study is truly path breaking, as it provides critical data and insights to improve understanding of the effects of growing use of social media, and its impact on the lifestyles of young people across the world. The study underlines how we can leverage the possibilities of digital technology while ensuring the long-term wellbeing of all users”

About Sync

Sync is a digital well-being initiative launched by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) with a vision to create a world where we are all in control of our digital lives. The initiative is guided by extensive research in collaboration with global entities to understand the amplifications of technology and how it’s affecting our lives, and translate the knowledge gained into awareness campaigns, tools, experiences, educational content and programs aiming to raise the global public awareness around the topic.

To sync with Sync: Twitter https://twitter.com/SyncIthra, or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SyncIthra 

About Ithra

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential cultural destinations, a destination for the curious, creatives, and seekers of knowledge. Through a compelling series of programs, performances, exhibitions, events and initiatives, Ithra creates world-class experiences across its interactive public spaces. These bring together culture, innovation and knowledge in a way that is designed to appeal to everyone. By connecting creatives, challenging perspectives and transforming ideas, Ithra is proud to be inspiring cultural leaders of the future. Ithra is Saudi Aramco’s flagship CSR initiative and the Kingdom’s largest cultural centre, comprising an Idea Lab, Library, Cinema, Theater, Museum, Energy Exhibit, Great Hall, Children’s Museum and Ithra Tower.

For further information, please visit: www.ithra.com.

Follow Ithra on social media: Facebook (King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture), Twitter (@Ithra) and Instagram (@Ithra) #Ithra

[1] Developed based on a survey of 15,000 people in 30 countries commissioned by Sync and conducted by PSB Middle-East in June and July 2021.

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