Using technology-based intervention to combat digital addiction: potentials and risks

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Digital technology is a theme of modern society but their excessive and obsessive use could be seen as an addictive behaviour. To minimize harm and prevent addictive usage, digital media has a unique and powerful ability in comparison to traditional and substance-based addiction and other behaviour addictions. It has the ability to monitor a person’s usage and issue an intervention in an intelligent, real-time and context-aware style. Such intervention may take multi-modal forms and be presented in various ways that are much more rich and diverse in comparison with classical intervention styles, e.g. change in the colour of the screen, metaphor, counter and progress bars, peer comparison, etc. Despite the unique opportunities afforded by these technologiesy little research has done on how to exploit them. There also exists  so-called ‘digital diet’ commercial apps that claim to counter digital addiction,, but which may have little basis in behaviour change principles and theories.

To explore the best practice and risks related to software-assisted behaviour change mechanisms in relation to digital addiction, we have conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative studies including interviews, focus groups, surveys, a diary study and online forum analysis. We have mainly explored persuasive interactive digital addiction labels, issued by software or peers online, and the effect of gender and culture on their acceptance. Our conclusions is that technology provides a unique and powerful chance to prevent addictive digital media usage or at least to increases self-awareness of use, whilst at the same time there could be various risks in relation to behaviour change through this approach. This presentation will delve into the details of that conclusion.



Raian Ali

Raian Ali is a Principal Academic in Computing and the Head of Research in the Department of Computing and Informatics, Faculty of Science & Technology, Bournemouth University, UK. He received his PhD in Software Engineering from University of Trento, Italy. He worked as a post-doctorate research fellow at University of Trento and then Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research, University of Limerick, Ireland. His research is focused on the engineering of social informatics, i.e., the systematic design of software-based solutions for social requirements and the governed and responsible integration of such solutions into the overall socio-technical system. Raian has a keen interest in studying Digital Addiction which he defines as a problematic usage of digital devices characterized by properties like being excessive, obsessive, compulsive, impulsive and hasty. He focuses on the principles, methods and tools needed to engineer addiction-aware technology able to combat, autonomously or semi-autonomously, addictive usage styles. As a social responsibility, he is advocating a policy change in the production of digital media so that it helps people to make informed decisions about their usage. He would also like to see more public awareness of the potential reasons and side-effects of the obsessive usage of technology, or at least encourage a user to make a software-supported self-assessment exercise around it.

Title: Dr First name: John Surname: McAlaney Primary affiliation*: Faculty of Science and Technology Bournemouth University, United Kingdom Physical address town/city*: Poole Physical address country*: UK Email address: Title: Prof First name: Keith Surname: Phalp Primary affiliation*: Faculty of Science and Technology Bournemouth University, United Kingdom Physical address town/city*: Poole Physical address country*: UK Email address:

Conflicts of interest:

No funding to declare.

No conflict of interest.

Mr Amen Alrobai