This Digital Home is a social research program examining the changing aspect of technology for Australian families in staying connected, informed and healthy through social isolation. Over June and July, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation gathered more than 450 multimedia responses from 21 Australian families addressing areas such as relationships, health and learning.
Families are using technology to help them move.
The stories and images we collected from our participating families as part of This Digital Home confirmed that technology is quite commonly a sedentary activity, but as lockdown levels ebbed and flowed technology was increasingly a part of exercise, movement and shared family experiences.
A consistent thread running (excuse the pun) through This Digital Home was families committing to using technology for dancing and yoga.
We received many videos of families playing Just Dance through their console and several mentions and photos of Cosmic Yoga. A highlight was from a family who, despite having deliberately low technology use in the home (and the children prefer non-screen-related activities), created their own dance to the beginning of the Voltron cartoon (see video below).
There were also many examples of parents and children seeking out technology that allowed them to slow themselves as well. Families used meditation apps like Calm and Smiling Minds to find some peace and help to manage anxiety or the stress that the year has contained.
Families, through local sporting and community groups, found new ways to maintain their weekly exercise. There were examples of weekly martial arts lessons over Zoom, athletics clubs putting weekly cross-country courses online for people to run and compare times, ballet classes over video conferencing and using YouTube videos to improve technique in shot put.
This deliberate seeking out of technology for exercise, like through dancing games or connecting to sporting clubs using video and other technology, is contrasted by more incidental experiences of movement that were specifically brought about by the pandemic.
Through social media, many families shared that they had discovered and participated in rainbow walks and teddy bear walks during this time. They talked about seeking out the bears or rainbows and photographing them to share online with others. It encouraged some families to also make their own rainbows or put their own bears out. This was physical activity inspired in the most part by sharing across social media.
Several parents shared their use of activity tracking apps and ways they used them to connect with others and manage their physical movement from tracking steps to half marathon PBs.
There were two specific stories from mothers who shared that social media was the driving factor in their health and wellbeing.
One very fit Queensland mum uses a host of technology to maintain her running which is both a physical and mental health manager. She uses Garmin and Strava to track running and writes, “I keep in touch with Deadly Runners on the Messenger app, to see who is running where and we motivate each other. I also use Facebook to follow Dynamic Running as they organise a lot of trail races and ultra-training and events. I like to check out local park run pics on Facebook and I get emails from road runners and athletics clubs about upcoming runs ... wow that's probably a bit over the top now that I write it all down ... but I think it helps keep me motivated and connected to my mates that run.”
Another mother was very clear about the role social media played in her own lifestyle. It is best read in her own words:
“I joined an F45 a while ago and through the Facebook group. I meet a group of ladies who had similar goals in mind. We all had different times we attended the gym due to our very different lifestyles. Facebook groups made it easy to contact each other and stay in touch. It allowed us to not have to 'be friends' and let each other into our personal lives but maintain focus on our shared goals, as our lifestyles were very different. These groups allowed us to go from barely exercising to being confident enough to run 5km races. This had a massive impact on my health and my mindset. If it wasn't for Facebook groups I don’t think we would have met or come together like this.”
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