The Electronic Tether: Smartphone Addiction
Smartphones are a key means of accessing information and communicating in the 21st century. From texting friends, to browsing social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, smartphones keep individuals connected to one another like never before. But are there disadvantages to a society with excessive information?
Assumption College Science Professors Adam Volungis, Ph.D., and Maria Kalpidou, Ph.D.,--who share an interest in mental health and its relationship to technology--recently completed a study on the phenomenon of smartphone addiction. The focus of their research was to explore the relationship between smartphone use and mental health. Unsurprisingly, their studies found a direct correlation between increased frequencies of smartphone use and rising levels of mental health distress.
The study, which surveyed college students, included a series of well-validated measures. Students completed self-report questions, from which correlations and logistic regression analyses were conducted. While the study could not infer causation and or direction on these topics, they have predictive value. Based on the results of the study, the professors were able to infer that students who are depressed or anxious are more likely to engage in addictive smartphone behaviors. However, this only accounted for 6.9 to 12.3 percent of the variance based on the logistic regression analysis, indicating that there were other factors that led to smartphone addiction not explored in the study.
According to Prof. Volungis, the study also explored the possibility a correlation between personality traits and smartphone addiction.
“The only personality trait positively correlated with smartphone addiction was neuroticism,” he explained. “This was not surprising since this construct consists of depressive and anxious features.”
The study not only has predictive measures, but also clinical implications. Based on this study, information can be found on targeting, reducing and modifying smartphone use to improve student mental health. The majority of college students own and regularly use smartphones, the professors found, is paired with an increasing number of college students experiencing a range of mental health problems.
For college counselors, a screening tool for smartphone addiction would be wise in determining the underlying issues for students experiencing mental health issues. Doing so can help create a treatment plan, and also indicate “warning signs” for mental health. Additionally, determining what parts of the smartphone are meeting students’ needs, but not elsewhere, in their daily life.
“There should be a replacement behavior that can also provide some level of gratification in a more adaptive manner,” Prof. Volungis explained.
Although removing the smartphone could relieve the problem, it is obviously not a practical nor realistic option for most.
“Thus, it is therapeutically prudent to consider what features are most beneficial for each student, including [smartphone] applications that are specifically designed to improve emotional well-being and increase adaptive behaviors,” said Prof. Volungis.
Smartphones are an essential part of the modern world, but there is a fine line between “smartphone usage” and “smartphone addiction,” which can have life-altering emotional effects. Though it’s always been hypothesized, the research of these two Assumption professors now confirms that reducing smartphone usage will likely result in improved and better managed mental health.
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College