Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Together Without Technology

Together Without Technology


Technology is everywhere. You are reading this blog, probably on a laptop with your phone on the side. It is amazing how much we can achieve with technology and how much smaller the world is as a result. However, the time we spend in front of a screen is increasing, and this goes for our children too.

Whether it be watching TV, playing video games, or using a mobile device, children aged 0 – 8 spend an average of over 2 hours a day in front of a screen, with 5 – 8-year olds spending nearly 3 hours a day in front of screen media (Rideout, 2017). Around 1 hour of that time is spent on a mobile device (mobile phone or tablet-like device), and this has tripled since 2013 (15 minutes). Furthermore, a staggering 42% of 0 – 8-year olds own their own tablet, which has increased from 7% in 2013 and less than 1% in 2011. This means that children are spending more time than ever on a screen, suggesting that less time is being spent pursing other important activities such as reading or play.

Although technology is an essential tool for learning, it can still have some negative impacts. For example, Cheung et al., (2017) investigated whether the frequency of touchscreen use was associated with sleep - which is essential for cognitive development - in children aged 6 to 36 months. They found a significant association between touchscreen use and reduced sleep quality, as well as longer sleep onset. Furthermore, each additional hour of tablet use was associated with around 15 minutes less sleep. Other research has also found associations between media use and children’s language development (Bortz, & Davidson, 2017; Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007) and obesity (Mazur et al., 2018; Robinson et al., 2017).
As a result of the potentially negative implications of media use, the American Academy of Paediatrics (2016) have created some guidelines that parents can use to ensure their children are spending an appropriate amount of time using media. For example, they suggest that young children should spend no longer than 1 hour a day in front of a screen so that children can engage in other activities such as play. As seen from the statistics above, families are not following these guidelines, meaning their children’s development could be affected, and they may not be spending as much quality time together as a family.

I created a video that would appeal to those with families, particularly with young children, about how to take 24 minutes together without technology. It was posted on a dedicated page on Facebook and on YouTube. The video consists of emotive pictures of children and families together or with technology, with text describing various statistics or suggestions for activities, lasting for just under 3 minutes. I asked people to use the hast tag #togetherwithouttechnology so I could keep track of people's involvement.
One persuasion technique I used was rhetorical questions, which are questions that don’t require an answer. Burnkrant and Howard (1984) found that rhetorical questions, especially introductions with rhetorical questions, arouse the reader’s uncertainty and motivate more intensive processing of message content compared to statements. I used several rhetorical questions throughout my video, one of which the first text of the video; “Are you spending as much quality time with your children and you’d like to?”, and another being “What does your child do in the hour before bed?”. Hopefully this would’ve increased the processing of the message content of my video.
Another technique I used was the Pique Technique, which is asking for something strange or unusual, meaning the target is more likely to comply as mindless refusal may be disrupted (Santos, Leve, & Pratkanis, 1994). In the video, I asked viewers to challenge themselves to spend 24 minutes with their family without the use of technology, which is an unusual yet short amount of time. This unusual request may increase behaviour change and more people may be mindful of spending 24 minutes with their family without technology.
I also used the central and peripheral routes to persuasion (Petty, & Cacioppo, 1984). For the central route, I used statistics to verify the claims and presented a well-reasoned argument. For the peripheral route, I used emotive pictures alongside each message which did not require analytical thinking, and parts of the message came from experts, for example from scientific studies. By ensuring that the video has content that could persuade viewers which belong to either route, I may increase the amount of people in which behaviour change occurs.

American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communciations and Media. (2106). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138, e20162591.
Bortz, K., & Davidson, L. F. (2017). Handheld screen time increased risk of expressive speech delays in infants. Infectious Diseases in Children, 30, 9-9.
Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing. Journal of Personality and social psychology, 47, 1218.
Cheung, C. H., Bedford, R., De Urabain, I. R. S., Karmiloff-Smith, A., & Smith, T. J. (2017). Daily touchscreen use in infants and toddlers is associated with reduced sleep and delayed sleep onset. Scientific reports, 7, 46104.
Mazur, A., Caroli, M., Radziewicz‐Winnicki, I., Nowicka, P., Weghuber, D., Neubauer, D., ... & Hadjipanayis, A. (2018). Reviewing and addressing the link between mass media and the increase in obesity among European children: The European Academy of Paediatrics (EAP) and The European Childhood Obesity Group (ECOG) consensus statement. Acta Paediatrica, 107, 568-576.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1984). The effects of involvement on responses to argument quantity and quality: Central and peripheral routes to persuasion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 46, 69.
Rideout, V. (2017). The Common Sense census: Media use by kids age zero to eight.  San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
Robinson, T. N., Banda, J. A., Hale, L., Lu, A. S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S. L., & Wartella, E. (2017). Screen media exposure and obesity in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 140(Supplement 2), S97-S101.
Santos, M. D., Leve, C., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1994). Hey buddy, can you spare seventeen cents? Mindful persuasion and the pique technique. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 755-764.
Zimmerman, F. J., Christakis, D. A., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2007). Associations between media viewing and language development in children under age 2 years. The Journal of pediatrics, 151, 364-368.


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