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Title: Online social networks and Saudi youth participation in physical activity
Author: Baker, Razan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6348 6773
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2016
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Previous studies targeting youth participation in physical activity have argued that self-motivation is the main key to increasing participation. However, few studies have focused specifically on the role of structural factors in prompting youth participation in physical activity. The structure may include people, and institutions that are introducing, providing and facilitating physical activity to youth. Therefore, this study focuses on the role of the structure surrounding youth. The study takes youth in Saudi Arabia aged 15-24 as its subjects in order to examine the use of three online social networks (OSNs), i.e., Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for communication and exchange of resources and the influence on participation of key decision makers such as home (parents and siblings), school (Ministry of Education and PE teachers), physical activity and sports clubs (General Authority of Sports [GAS]), and friends. The study uses mixed methods and follows the social network structural theory to examine how the exchange of resources (e.g., information, emotional support, financial support, and facilities and services) takes place between agent and structure. The main findings are that the structure plays a role in influencing participation among Saudi youth. Friends are of great influence, as they occupy the longest hours of youth time both at school, where friends interact in person, and outside of school, where friends communicate through OSNs. An Islamic and conservative society prevails in Saudi Arabia, where 99 per cent of the population is Muslim. Therefore, in addition to the structural factors noted above, religion is also investigated. Indeed, Islam drives motivation in this large conservative group as individuals learn to obey and implement the religious advice and Islamic teachings of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), including those messages with relation to becoming a healthy and strong Muslim. Finally, the study also focuses on the participation of Saudi female youth in physical activity. Due to cultural reasons preventing women from participating in physical activity as freely and equally as their male peers in the country, Saudi Arabia has seen an increasing percentage of obese women. The main aim of this research is to understand the relationship between agency and structure and thereby to identify the role of structure in increasing the participation of youth in physical activity. The research question (How do OSNs facilitate Saudi youth participation in physical activity?) investigates the relationship between agency and structure to delineate the pattern of information exchange regarding resources for involvement in physical activity. Through the use of mixed methods including face-to-face interviews, online survey and digital ethnography, the researcher investigates how youth social networks function both offline and online. The study concludes that decision makers in the field of physical activity participation in Saudi Arabia vary in their level of encouragement, influence and communication. Family members do not seem to communicate with youth via online platforms, but they do play a crucial role in offline social networks. Private institutions are becoming very active in OSNs, and public institutions are following the trend, albeit at a slower pace. The study shows that physical activity facilitators in Saudi Arabia are still failing to effectively reach youth and encourage them to participate in physical activity. Various policies need to be reviewed and enhanced if the public institutions do indeed want to reach more youth and benefit youth and the community, including the female youth, who make up more than half of the population. The study shows that the way to develop these policies is to communicate with youth via OSNs and to provide youth with more facilities, venues and services in the country that are suitable for both genders.
Supervisor: Girginov, V. ; Hills, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Online social networks ; youth ; physical activities ; participation ; Islam and sports in Saudi Arabia ; Values ; athletes ; PE teachers ; role models ; Agency and structure ; Saudi women rights in sports