Digital education comes with challenges that can hinder pupils and teachers’ well-being, such as cyberbullying and digital divide. As we experienced during the pandemic, an extensive use of distance learning and ICT tools could lead to the risk of disconnecting from reality and damage social relations, potentially resulting in detachment, mental health disorders, anxiety and even depression. Especially for learners at risk of early leaving, an attentive psychosocial support, either led individually or in groups, is recommended as a way to prevent learners, teachers, trainers and school staff from being distressed.
To safeguard mental health in digital and blended learning environments, it is necessary to share a common understanding of well-being, define specific strategies, initiatives for digital well-being in schools at national and EU level and design guidelines and measures to advice schools as to which digital technologies to use in the learning environments. It is also recommended for teachers to address concerns related to the use of technologies in classrooms and other learning environments to promote mental health awareness and resilience among learners.
Social dialogue and consultation with education trade unions should be ensured when formulating policy recommendations on digital and blended learning and make a clear mention on the importance of prioritising mental and physical well-being. Policy makers may support schools by providing equal access to digital learning for all, adequate training and relevant professional opportunities for teachers, trainers and school leaders, targeted investments in appropriate technologies and therefore financial support.
Ministries could prepare specific policy about digital well-being at school and cooperate with the Education Technology (EdTech) sector which combines education and technological advances, including hardware/software, internet-based services used for learning, teaching and assessment in formal or non-formal education and training settings. EdTech solutions could be implemented to promote and ensure well-being and adapted according to individual learners’ needs, with a particular focus on learners with special educational needs.
As the Education Technology sectors’ influence in education is increasing and privatisation is expanding, public education systems need to be protected from private and commercial interests and actors. In this regard, it is essential that Member States develop national regulations to protect the public value of education. For instance, public platforms for online teaching and learning could be implemented in consultation with education trade unions and stakeholders in full respect of teachers’ autonomy and workload. Moreover, public funding and adequate legal frameworks to ensure data protection and intellectual property rights should be put in place at EU and national levels.