In 2021 and 2022 OnePlanet Research Centre collaborated with the Radboud University Active Living programme to organise a year-long honours lab education programme. One result of this collaboration is a plan to work on designs to support teenagers in active living. As a first step, Bert Steenbergen, Femke van Abswoude and myself supervised four students in their master’s thesis research into how we can support teenagers in active living by making use of their social networks. The results of the students’ thesis research informed a paper which is now published in JMIR Formative Research.
From the abstract of the paper:
Background: Participation in organized sports and other forms of active living have important health benefits in adolescence and adulthood. Unfortunately, the transition to secondary school has been shown to be a barrier to participation. Social networks can play important roles in activating adolescents, and information and communication technology (ICT) interventions can augment this role. To date, there are few insights into what adolescents themselves think and feel about barriers to and motivators for active living, the role of their social networks in active living, and the potential of ICT for physical activity (PA).
Objective: This study aimed to gather insights into the perspectives of adolescents aged 12 to 14 years on active living and sports participation, motivators and demotivators for active living, and the potential roles of their social network and of ICT.
Methods: A total of 26 adolescents aged 12 to 14 years from different levels of Dutch secondary schools participated in 1 of 5 semistructured focus group interviews, in which they talked about sports and PA, their social networks, their ICT use, and the role of social networks and ICT in PA. All interviews were transcribed and analyzed using a thematic qualitative approach.
Results: The study showed that all participants were physically active, although the transition to secondary school made this difficult, mostly because of time constraints. Participants saw positive physical and mental health effects as important benefits of active living. They regarded social benefits as strong motivators for active living: being together, making friends, and having fun together. However, the social network could also demotivate through negative peer judgment and negative feedback. Participants were willing to share their own positive experiences and hear about those from close peers and friends but would not share their own (and were not interested in others’) negative experiences or personal information. Participants were mainly interested in descriptive norms set by others and obtained inspiration from others for PA. With respect to using ICT for active living, participants stated a preference for social challenges among friends, personalized feedback, goals, activities, and rewards. Competition was seen as less important or even unattractive. If mentioned, participants felt that this should be with friends, or peers of a similar level, with fun being more important than the competition itself.
Conclusions: This study shows that adolescents feel that their social network is and can be a strong driver of active living. They are willing to use ICT-based solutions that make use of social networks for PA as long as these solutions involve their current (close) network and use an approach based on being together and having fun together.
You can find the paper here: JMIR Form Res 2023;7:e46350, doi:10.2196/46350