Inaugural Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit to seek greater understanding of digital harms

  • The self-styled “Davos of digital wellbeing” will raise awareness of the hidden realities of our relationship with digital services
  • The two-day summit (29-30 March) will bring together academia, tech industry titans, cultural figures and policymakers for an exchange of ideas and solutions for improving our relationship with tech
  • Simon Sinek and leadership from IBM, UNESCO and Childnet amongst those expected speak at sessions across the Summit
  • Sync research indicates that nearly half of us (48%) spend more time online everyday than we would like

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, March 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — As part of efforts to raise awareness of digital wellbeing issues, digital wellbeing program, Sync, is set to bring together leaders from across tech, academia, sports, culture and policy at the end of this month for its inaugural Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit.

Held between 29th and 30th March at The King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra), Saudi Arabia, the Summit will provide a platform for thought leaders to develop new solutions for protecting the wellbeing of digital media users worldwide.

Focusing in on five key areas of concern, Summit sessions will invite speakers to offer insight and perspective on the topics of digital addiction, privacy, fake news and misinformation, relationships and algorithms. It is hoped that the exchange of ideas and knowledge can help to inspire tangible change in how we interact with, regulate and design digital platforms.

Abdullah Al-Rashid, Director of Sync says: “Our understanding of the complex impact of digital technology and social media on our relationships, personal wellbeing and society trails far behind our understanding of the tech itself and how to get the most clicks, likes and engagements out of it. It’s only in recent years that we have begun to have conversations around the more harmful aspects of our relationship with digital and social media. As the pandemic drove even greater integration of digital tech into our lives, it’s important that we invest more into these conversations to ensure that we uncover the full picture, and in doing so, avoid proposing solutions that focus only on symptoms rather than causes, and are short-term, partial, isolated fixes rather than meaningful, holistic or lasting changes.

“The Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit will bring together the most prominent experts in this field, as well as key stakeholders, cultural figures and influencers to discuss issues of digital wellbeing on a scale never before organised. Summit sessions will see our thought leaders ask provocative, but necessary, questions about our relationships with technology; provide insights into its impacts and offer solutions to the challenges we face. Only by collectively asking the right questions can we successfully define the path to a healthier relationship with technology.”

Thought leadership

Amongst the roster of thought leaders expected to speak at the Summit, will be major figures representing tech, NGOs, charities, Governments and the cultural influencer community. The headline speakers include:

  • Will Gardner OBE, CEO at Childnet, UK
  • Mo Gawdat, Author, Entrepreneur and Former Chief Business Officer, Google [X], United Arab Emirates
  • Jonathan Garner, Founder & CEO, Mind Over Tech, UK
  • Ross Farrelly, PhD, Director Data Science & Artificial Intelligence, IBM, Australia
  • H.H. Princess Haifa Al Mogrin, Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UNESCO
  • Angela Gandra da Silva Martins PhD, Vice-Minister, Human Rights for the Family, Brazil
  • Liz Sweigart PhD, Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Safe Kids AI
  • John A. Naslund, PhD, Instructor in Global Health & Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Gitanjali Rao, Innovator, Author, and TIME Magazine’s first-ever “Kid of the Year” in 2020

Will Gardner OBE, CEO at Childnet – a UK charity campaigning for a safer internet for children – said: “The online world provides incredible opportunities for children, but also presents risk, and this is the case for children all over the world. There is a clear need for policy, regulation, protections and education to keep pace with this fast-moving environment, to ensure children are able to look after themselves as well as others online, but also for this work to include the voice of young people, sharing their experiences, their concerns and their ideas. I am looking forward to engaging on how to progress this area at the Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit”.

Speakers attending the Summit will be invited to discuss a broad range of topics relating to digital wellbeing. Attendees can expect to hear experts talking to the latest thinking on a number of issues pertinent to digital wellbeing. Panel session and speech highlights will include:

  • The Psychology of Technology panel with Dr. Mohammed Alhajji, Director of the Behavioral Insights & Nudge Unit, Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health and Dr. Moritz Büchi, Senior Research and Teaching Associate, University of Zurich
  • Gen Z Versus the Digital World panel moderated by Rodney WJ Collins PhD, SVP & Director, McCann Worldgroup Truth Central and featuring Chantelle de Carvalho,  Producer, I am Gen Z and Othman Almoamar, Community Engagement & Research Program Manager, MISK Foundation
  • Scanning the Horizon – Tech Trends and Their Implications for Digital Wellbeing panel with Dr. Latifa Al-Abdulkarim, Assistant Professor, College of Computer and Information Science, KSU – King Saud University and Dr. Ross Farelly, Director, Data Science and AI, IBM, Australia
  • Does The Internet Need Warning Labels? debate with Matthew Bergman, Founder, Social Media Victims Law Center, Senior Partner, Bergman Draper Oslund Udo

A full Summit agenda will be announced in due course.

The Summit will also play host to an Agora, bringing together attendees in a public forum to help encourage the generation of new strategic ideas. This will involve breakout sessions where attendees will be able to share their thoughts on how to best promote the global digital wellbeing agenda. Led by topics discussed in the speaker sessions, the breakout sessions will cover ‘The Digital Wellbeing Future We Want’ and ‘Building A Global Digital Wellbeing Movement’.

During the Summit, Sync will doing deep dive sessions with SMEs and researchers from diverse nations, experience and background aimed at bringing together key insights around digital wellbeing with and the way forward and future of digital wellbeing.

Sync data illustrates growing concern for our relationship with tech

The Summit follows the launch of Sync’s first whitepaper[1], Global Digital Wellbeing Report 2021. The research illustrates how embedded new media and tech has been into our daily lives in recent decades, but with a particular focus on how such trends have accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Research from the Global Digital Wellbeing Report was also included in a paper published by Prof Justin, Department chair of Psychology at Zayed University, and the Sync Research Fellows. It was published in Frontier in Psychiatry, the most-cited Multidisciplinary Psychology journal in the world. As an open-access journal, the article is accessible for readers here.

Sync’s survey of 15,000 people, included in both the report and paper, found that:

  • Despite huge worries over online addiction and half of us admitting we skip sleep every week to remain online at night (rising to 69% among Gen Z), 19% of parents let their kids go online without any set time limits. 
  • Almost a third of us admit to misleading friends and family members about the amount of time we spend online, rising to 40% of Gen Z – those aged between 10 and 25 years old. 
  • Nearly half (48%) of us spend more time than we would like to online every day, and 43% of us have not had a single day off from social media in the past year. 
  • Three quarters of all respondents (75%) are now demanding governments invest more in high quality affordable care for online addiction and 61% say internet and social media addiction should be formally recognized as a medical condition. 

Knowledge partnerships

Sync also recently announced another collaboration with the Digital Wellbeing Research Center at University of Milano-Bicocca which 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.”

To find out more, visit https://sync.ithra.com/.

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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