Digital life during the lockdown

Virtual social apps are helping us make do as best we can in lonely, desperate times. “Because there are no professional, public events… we have to entertain each other”, says Dr Athina Karatzogianni, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester and Principal Investigator of the European H2020 project DigiGen.

Apps such as Zoom, House Party and Teams have transformed the way we communicate with each other, because they are helping people stay connected as best as they can in this unprecedented time.

However, digital services are no substitute for in-person meetups, says Dr Karatzogianni and confinement will have negative effects in the longer term.

Dr Athina Karatzogianni raised concerns about mental wellbeing under lockdown: “To maintain close relationships, you need mental effort and psychological effort to be with people in the same space, to break bread and share happy moments. Close relationships help maintain your wellbeing — it makes you happier.”

“The government keeps talking about physical health but not about mental health – digital services are no substitute for in-person meetups and confinement will have negative effects in the longer term.”

“And, everyone spending their evenings drunk and online could have other downsides. One is internet safety, the other is surveillance, Zoom for example has been heavily criticised for its privacy and security.”

Children in particular have been affected by the lockdown and technology has played a significant role in keeping them in a routine and connected, from online PE with Joe Wicks, virtual birthday parties on Zoom, playdates on Facetime and having the majority of their school lessons being delivered digitally through virtual classrooms.

Dr Karatzogianni is the Principal Investigator for DigiGen, a Europe-wide study into how children and young people, a group growing up today often referred to as the Digital Generation, use and are affected by the technological transformations in their everyday lives. 

Aiming to uncover both harmful and beneficial effects of technology in the everyday lives of children and young people, the research includes a focus on educational institutions, the home, leisure time and children and young people’s civic participation. The project is developing effective social, educational, health and online safety policies and practices in collaboration with national and international stakeholders.