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23 October 2014

Fun Motivators Increase the Use of Web-Based Interventions

Keywords: SMS, Websites, health, internet, intervention, mobile, smoking, ERC, Western Europe, experiment, kids,

A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that sending children motivators during a web-based smoking intervention stimulates them to revisit and using the website. This is in particular the case for email and text messages announcing new fun features on the website.

Take aways

  • Previous research shows that motivators are crucial for the effectiveness of health apps.
  • This study shows that web-based smoking interventions using motivators via email and text messages can increase children’s use of the intervention website.
  • This is especially the case for messages that announce new animated videos or games on the website.
  • Motivators are most effective among children with a low social economic background.
  • These findings highlight the importance for web-based intervention developers to consider motivating children to use the intervention website.
  • However, motivators should be applied with caution, as children might get irritated by too many cues.

Study information

  • The question?

    The study addressed three questions:
    1. Do motivators (messages to increase curiosity to view the website) via email and text messages stimulate children to use a web-based smoking intervention?
    2. Is the cue content related to the use of the web-based smoking intervention?
    3. Which child characteristics are related to higher response to the motivators and use of the website?
  • Who?

    1124 primary school children (mean age: 10 years old; 55% girls); 86% had a Western and 43% a high socio-economic background
  • Where?

    The Netherlands
  • How?

    At the start of the study the children filled out a short survey about their gender, age, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. They were also asked to give their email and/ or mobile number. Afterwards the children were divided into two groups (motivators vs. no-motivators). In both groups children had access to the web-based smoking intervention.

    In the motivators group children received 6 email and/ or SMS cues to stimulate them to use the website. The motivators were sent one, two, three, five, seven, and nine months after the first survey. The aim of the motivators were to increase children’s curiosity to view the website. The content of the motivators announced whether there were new facts on (non-)smoking, animated videos or/ and games posted on the website. The use of the smoking prevention website was measured by means of a server registration system which monitored the number of clicks on the website.

Facts and findings

  • Children who received motivators via email and/or text messages were more likely to use the web-based smoking intervention than children who did not receive motivators (see Figure 1).
  • Children in the motivators group responded more often to messages announcing new animated movies and games than cues announcing new facts on the website.
  • Children with low socio-economic backgrounds who received motivators used the web-based smoking intervention more often than children with high socio-economic backgrounds (see Figure 2).
  • The authors gave the following explanation for this finding: children from low socio-economic backgrounds may have responded more often to the motivators because they are more interested in playing games and watching videos online, while children from high socio-economic backgrounds use the Internet more often for searching information and schoolwork.
  • Critical note: The overall use of the web-based smoking intervention was very low among the children.