Cellphone Addiction: What the Latest Study Does and Doesn’t Tell Us
A new study reveals that cellphone addiction could be a very real problem among young adults, but it’s important to put the study’s findings in context and examine what the study really can tell us.
The research, conducted at Baylor University and published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, surveyed 164 college students about 24 specific cellphone-related activities, as well as attempting to gauge how much time they spent on the devices. Right off the bat, it’s worth highlighting that approximately 60 percent of respondents said they felt they might be addicted to using their mobile phones, a figure that while self-reported (via carefully calibrated survey questions) is perhaps telling that this is something that is on the minds of our young adults.
The research specifically looked at how much time people spent using their phones to go on social media sites like Facebook, as well as social picture sites like Pinterest, and chat apps like Snapchat, as well as more general things like texting and sending emails.
The researchers found that, on average, the people in the sample spent 94.6 minutes a day texting. Sending emails on their phone clocked in at 48.5 minutes, while checking Facebook scored a still substantial 38.6 minutes. General Internet browsing also took up a substantial part of the day, registering 34.4 minutes. In total, the sample reported spending an average of 10 hours a day on their cellphones.
There was also an interesting gender breakdown here. While it’s often suggested that men are more likely to be tech-loving, it’s actually women who tend to use their phones more. The researchers found that while men send roughly the same number of emails from their phones, the young women in the study tended to use the social media apps on their phones far more, as well as texting and emailing more. This was all done as a means of keeping in touch and servicing “deep” relationships.
When men did use social media, they tended to use Twitter in order to follow the news and sports, as well as general cellphone use to catch up with their friends. To be clear, they weren’t immune to what we might class as overuse of cellphones, but their general usage wasn’t as high as that of their female counterparts.
Interestingly, a couple of sites/apps emerged as ones that could be associated with obsessive behavior. Social camera app Instagram was one, and picture gathering Pinterest another. As to why these sites are so addictive, the study could not say, but some lures that had been thought to be addictive, like games, didn’t come out in the data, so clearly this is an area for future research.
The researchers believe that this study shows that cellphones definitely do enrich our lives, but as a number of students reported feeling anxious when their phones weren’t in their sight, and other anxiety-related feelings, they could also be a problem for the mental health of our young adults if usage isn’t carefully managed:
“Cellphones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms,” researcher James Roberts is quoted as saying. “We need to identify the activities that push cellphone use from being a helpful tool to one that undermines our well-being and that of others.”
This research is significant in that it is one of the largest studies to look at the topic of potential cellphone addiction among college-age students. It also carries weight because it attempts to look specifically at what sites/apps may produce addictive behavior, which in the long term could help us investigate potential unhealthy use and help people deal with that problem.
However, while the sample gives us some meaningful talking points, it is a relatively small sample of people and we would have to find a larger, random population sample to draw more concrete conclusions. As such, this study provides a good foundation for future research and tells us that there is a possibility that cellphone addiction could be a problem, particularly for young people and young adults but we still need to find out more about our smartphone habits before we can really begin to formulate evidence-based medical recommendations.
For more information on how cellphones both enrich our lives but could possibly exacerbate mental health problems, please click here.
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