Introducing the Digital Well-Being Index

February 6, 2023

Today marks Safer Internet Day (SID) when, each February, the world comes together to promote safer and responsible use of digital technology, under the 2023 theme: “Together for a Better Internet.” On this, the 20th anniversary of SID, we are releasing our inaugural Digital Well-Being Index (DWBI), a measure of Generation Z’s online psychological well-being.

To gain insight into how teens and young adults are faring online – across all platforms and devices – and to help inform our recently released Family Center, we polled more than 9,000 people across three age demographics in six countries. Drawing upon more than four decades of previous subjective well-being research and adapted for the online environment, we devised a DWB Index based on responses from teens (aged 13-17), young adults (aged 18-24) and parents of teens aged 13 to 19 in Australia, France, Germany, India, the UK and the U.S. We asked about young people’s exposure to several online risks and, from those and other responses, calculated a DWB Index for each country and a combined score across all six.

Inaugural DWBI reading

The first Digital Well-Being Index for the six geographies stands at 62, a somewhat average reading on a scale of 0 to 100. By country, India registered the highest DWBI at 68, and France and Germany both came in below the six-country average at 60. Australia’s DWBI is 63. The UK matched the six-country average of 62, and the U.S. scored 64. 

The Index leverages the PERNA model, a variation on an existing well-being theory1, comprising 20 sentiment statements across five categories: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Negative Emotion and Achievement. Taking into account all of their online experiences on any device or app – not just Snapchat – over the preceding three months2, respondents were asked to state their level of agreement with each of the 20 statements. For instance, under the Engagement category, one statement is: “Got completely absorbed in what I was doing online,” and under Relationships: “Was very satisfied with my relationships online.” (For a full list of the DWBI statements, see this link.) 

Role of social media

A DWBI score was calculated for each respondent based on their level of agreement with the 20 sentiment statements. Their scores were aggregated into four DWBI groups: Flourishing (10%), Thriving (43%), Middling (40%) and Struggling (7%). (See the chart and graph below for details.)

Not surprisingly, the research showed that social media plays a major role in Gen Z’s digital well-being, with more than three-quarters (78%) of respondents saying social media had a positive influence on the quality of their lives. That belief was even stronger among teens (84%) and males (81%) compared to Gen Z young adults (71%) and females (75%). Parents’ opinion (73%) about social media’s influence more closely matched that of the Gen Z young adults. Those in the Flourishing DWBI category saw social media as a positive influence in their lives (95%), while those Struggling said it was much less so (43%). More than a third (36%) of those in the Flourishing group agreed with the statement, “I cannot live my life without social media,” while only 18% of those determined to be Struggling agreed with that statement. Those percentages were essentially flipped with respect to the inverse statement, “The world would be a better place without social media.” (Flourishing: 22% agreed, Struggling: 33%). 

Informing Family Center

Questions to parents included asking them to gauge their teens’ exposure to online risks, and results show that parents are largely in tune with their teens’ online well-being. In fact, teens whose parents regularly checked in on their online and social media activities had stronger digital well-being and retained higher levels of trust from their parents. Conversely, the subset of parents who did not regularly supervise teens’ digital activities significantly underestimated teens’ risk exposure (by nearly 20 points). On average, 62% of teens (aged 13-19) told their parents what happened after experiencing a risk online. Yet, findings also showed that as those risks grew more serious, teens were less inclined to tell a parent.

This and other research was used to help inform the development of Snap’s new Family Center, a suite of features that provides parents, caregivers and other trusted adults with insight into who their teens are communicating with on Snapchat. Launched worldwide in October 2022, Family Center enables parents to view teens’ friend lists and who they have been communicating with over the last seven days, while respecting teens’ privacy and autonomy by not disclosing the content of any of those messages. Family Center also encourages supervising adults to report accounts they may be concerned about. New Family Center features are coming soon. 

At its core, Family Center is designed to spark meaningful conversations between teens and their parents, caregivers and other trusted adults about staying safe online and fostering digital well-being. What better time to commit to those conversations than Safer Internet Day! 

Jacqueline Beauchere, Global Head of Platform Safety

Our Digital Well-Being research yielded findings about Gen Z’s exposure to online risks, their relationships, particularly with their parents, and their reflections about their activities over the preceding months. There is so much more to the research than what we are able to share in a single blog post. For more about the Digital Well-Being Index and research, see our website, as well as this explainer, collection of key research findings, the full research results, and each of the six country infographics: Australia, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Back to News
1 The existing research theory is the PERMA model, which breaks down as follows: Positive Emotion (P), Engagement (E), Relationships (R), Meaning (M) and Accomplishment (A).
2 The study ran from April 22, 2022, to May 10, 2022.