Understanding at-risk technology users: A phenomenological approach

by Acosta, Kristina Mathews, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHARLOTTE, 2013, 149 pages; 3608265


The purpose of this study was to provide an in-depth understanding of users' experiences of technology that are at-risk of potential addictive behaviors. The sample consisted of 12 individuals, who self-identified as at-risk technology users. A thorough literature review was conducted prior to data collection to establish a theoretical framework for this phenomenon, identify studies supporting this area of interest, and to help define this research study. Based on existing literature, there was a notable gap in researchers' understanding of at-risk technology users as the foundation of the research was based on one subtype of technology addiction or was not empirically supported.

Data collection included a demographic form and one 45-90 minute, video-recorded interview, during which participants were asked semi-structured questions about their experiences with technology. Data analysis consisted of a phenomenological method adapted from Moustakas (1994). The method revealed that participants experience both positive and negative biological, psychological, and social factors related to their technology use. Participants' experiences of technology were influenced by: a) a cultural need to utilize technology, both externally and internally, b) motivating factors such as the desire for social connections with interpersonal relationships, enmeshment of the functionality of technology, the convenience of technology, and awareness of personal benefit, c) negative consequences, d) continued and advanced use of technology, which influenced the progression of use and feeling, and e) personal benefit attained without technology use.

The findings suggest that individuals who use technological devices may experience risk factors associated with technology use. Counselors are recommended to gain a clearer understanding of the risk factors of technology use in order to accurately assess and treat client symptoms. Counselor educators and supervisors are recommended to incorporate specific process addiction training in their curriculum and supervision to assist in the development of counselors-in-training awareness, knowledge, and skill about this emerging phenomenon. Future research is needed to develop confirmatory research models to gain a better understanding of how to assess, diagnose, and treat at-risk technology use.

AdviserPamela S. Lassiter
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsCounseling psychology
Publication Number3608265

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