Skip to main content

Online peer support groups to combat digital addiction: acceptance factors, design features and guidelines.

Aldhayan, M., 2021. Online peer support groups to combat digital addiction: acceptance factors, design features and guidelines. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

Full text available as:

ALDHAYAN, Manal_Ph.D._2021.pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.



Technology has introduced positive changes to human lives, made them more easily connected, and worked faster and more comfortably. However, technology also comes with hidden costs as its impact on wellbeing has become an area of concern. Certain relationships with technology exhibit symptoms of behavioural addiction. Online gaming disorder is an example of a problematic relationship with technology, which is obsessive and associated with damage to the players and their social circle. Social media has also been shown to trigger issues related to the wellbeing of users, such as jealousy, fear of missing out and lowering self-esteem. In some cases, people may need help to manage that relationship. A peer support group is a mechanism to get both informational and moral support from people who have a similar issue and are willing to change. It has also been shown to increase commitment to plans and prevent relapse in addictive behaviour. At the same time, such groups need management to maintain their usefulness and avoid risks. Examples of risks include promoting negative behaviour, trivialising problematic behaviour, lowering the confidence of some members and digression. Advances in social networking made it possible to host peer support groups online. It is also argued that hosting group sessions online is beneficial as members can be more open about their issues. At the same time, it can introduce additional risks such as a lack of adherence to group norms and regulations when people participate anonymously. Current online peer support groups are built using the de-facto social networking facilities, making it difficult to tailor them to the particular needs of this behaviour change technique, especially in setting privacy requirements about behaviour monitoring and providing motivational feedback such as self-monitoring social support and rewards. In other words, there is a need for a bespoke set of design elements, techniques and guidelines to building online peer support platforms. In this thesis, a series of qualitative studies and a survey were conducted to explore the acceptance and rejection factors of online peer support groups platforms by people who wish to change their problematic internet behaviour. The thesis takes digital addiction as an exemplar throughout the thesis. Such a problematic behaviour also has the benefits of being online and enabling self-monitoring based on objective data, i.e. the usage data that can be captured automatically, such as time spent on devices and applications used and the usage timestamps. The thesis explored the space of variability in online peer group platforms' design and the inter-relationships between the design features. Also, performed inferential analysis to study the relationship between demographics, personality traits, self-control, and attitude towards online peer groups on the one hand and acceptance and rejection factors and design features on the other. We utilised our findings and built a process to aid in designing online peer support groups platforms and their configuration. An initial evaluation of the process was performed. Participants found the process and its material useful in general. An optimisation of the steps and material and, also, more research on the topic are still needed to make it more efficient and capable of making more recommendations to designers and groups.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:peer support group; information system; digital addiction; behaviour change system
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:36402
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:20 Dec 2021 11:41
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:31


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -