Digital self-control interventions for distracting media multitasking - A systematic review

Daniel Biedermann*, Jan Schneider, Hendrik Drachsler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Abstract Digital distractions can interfere with goal attainment and lead to undesirable habits that are hard to get red rid of. Various digital self-control interventions promise support to alleviate the negative impact of digital distractions. These interventions use different approaches, such as the blocking of apps and websites, goal setting, or visualizations of device usage statistics. While many apps and browser extensions make use of these features, little is known about their effectiveness. This systematic review synthesizes the current research to provide insights into the effectiveness of the different kinds of interventions. From a search of the ‘ACM’, ‘Springer Link’, ‘Web of Science’, ’IEEE Xplore’ and ‘Pubmed’ databases, we identified 28 digital self-control interventions. We categorized these interventions according to their features and their outcomes. The interventions showed varying degrees of effectiveness, and especially interventions that relied purely on increasing the participants' awareness were barely effective. For those interventions that sanctioned the use of distractions, the current literature indicates that the sanctions have to be sufficiently difficult to overcome, as they will otherwise be quickly dismissed. The overall confidence in the results is low, with small sample sizes, short study duration, and unclear study contexts. From these insights, we highlight research gaps and close with suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12581
Pages (from-to)1217-1231
JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
Issue number5
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • digital distractions
  • media multitasking
  • self-control
  • self-regulation


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