Exploring relational regulation in older persons' mobile phone use
Steyn, Sandra Elizabeth
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It has been suggested that mobile technology has the potential to become a convenient medium to address people’s social goals and psychological needs. Limited studies have explored relational regulation, particularly how people navigate themselves in interacting with others to address their needs by using mobile phones. This research is particular important if mobile technology is considered an alternative to provide in the care needs of older people, because the older growing populations will place exponentially more pressure on health care systems and families. This study therefore aims to explore relational regulation in older persons’ use of their mobile phones. Since very little is known about the phenomenon, a qualitative study was conducted involving 19 participants (17 females; 2 males), aged 60 and older, who had access to a mobile phone, and who represented different socio-economic levels according to the Living Standard Measurement (LSM) scale. Data were obtained by means of the Mmogo-method®, a visual data-collection method that was used to explore older people’s personal and group experiences in relation to how they use their mobile phones. A secondary analysis of the textual and visual data was conducted by using thematic and visual analysis to focus specifically on relational regulation. Findings revealed three key themes: First, participants identified various social goals and psychological needs, such as the need for assistance in relation instrumental support and the need for contact with loved ones. Second, relational regulation is dependent on the participants’ subjective assessment of their own attitudes, knowledge and skills (competence) to use a mobile phone. Third, participants use four relational regulation strategies in relation to their mobile phones based on their subjective assessment of their competence. These relational regulation strategies are: (a) independent use of the mobile phone to regulate the environment; (b) postponement of need gratification; (c) asking for assistance by instructing younger people; and (d) applying implicit negotiation strategies such as using the mobile phone in exchange for assistance. The identification of these four relational regulation strategies that are employed by older persons who use their mobile phones contributes to the literature on relational regulation. The findings of this research may be used to build on the existing knowledge of relational regulation, and to guide similar studies in different contexts. As this study focused solely on older persons’ relational interactions with the younger generation, it is suggested that future studies focus on younger persons’ relational experiences with older persons regarding mobile phones and the younger generation’s willingness to assist older persons to address their needs.
- Humanities