Digital Wellbeing: Scale Development and Integrative Model Testing

Prakash, Caroline Priyanka
Yap, Crystal
Chan, Ricky
Tipgomut, Pornchanoke
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

The rapid transition to the digital age hassled to the ubiquitous use of digital technology globally, resulting in both beneficial outcomes and new threats to the digital wellbeing of users. Threats include digital world end-users no longer feeling obliged to control screen use or confined by social ethics. However, there is growing evidence that digital addiction increases depression, loneliness, abuse, and suicidal behaviour. Digital wellbeing is an emerging concept that addresses the impact of screen use on user’s wellbeing. In the scholarly domain, research into digital wellbeing has been impeded because of the lack of consensus on the conceptualisation and measurement of digital wellbeing, suggesting the need to further explore digital wellbeing experiences. While some existing studies have examined the impact of digital media use on subjective wellbeing, much is to be learned about how users’ digital literacy and their personal and social circumstances foster digital wellbeing, which is a direction pursued in this study in the context of marketing. Drawing on social cognitive theory and social capital theory, this research sought to 1) conceptualise and develop a scale for measuring digital wellbeing, and 2) examine how self-efficacy and online social capital mediate (and digital addiction moderates) the influence of digital literacy on digital wellbeing.

This study adopted a mixed-method design to address the research problem, involving semi structured in-depth interviews and two online surveys. Study 1 focused on scale development, encompassing a qualitative exploration of the meaning and dimensions of digital wellbeing. This was followed by a quantitative examination of the validity and reliability of the scale. Next, a conceptual model capturing the hypothesised relationships of digital literacy, self-efficacy, online social capital, digital addiction, and digital wellbeing was developed and empirically tested in study 2.

The in-depth interviews of study 1 involved 20 informants, with results suggesting that digital wellbeing is experienced through the cognitive and affective exertions of the users in the online context. Four dimensions were proposed: the state of emotional resilience, the state of agency, the state of communion, and the state of social connections. The quantitative scale purification resulted in a reliable and valid digital wellbeing scale. The results of study 2 conceptual model testing revealed the role of users’ personal and social circumstances in increasing digital wellbeing, the positive moderating effect of digital addiction on digital literacy, and the role of online social capital in enhancing the digital wellbeing of highly addicted users.

This thesis offers theoretical insights into the mechanisms needed to explain how digital literacy affects consumers’ digital wellbeing and how a healthy digital community can be created. The study also advances the theoretical understanding of digital wellbeing and contributes a measurement scale, which is currently not available in the marketing literature. The study encourages marketers to tailor their products and services in a way that ensures the digital wellbeing of end-users. The study informs policymakers on the experiential state of digital wellbeing and the need to increase the awareness of digital literacy amongst addicted users. The study also helps end-users gain an in-depth understanding of the balance between online screen use and wellbeing.

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