Mobile phone use: Dedication or addiction?

Mobile phone use leads to various positive and negative psychosocial aspects. This study describes these impacts on Swiss adolescents from 12 to 19 years old.

Background
In Switzerland, 98% of young people own a mobile phone. Among adolescents, the multifunctional hybrid medium holds a place of significant importance. Some young people use their mobile phones with an intensity that crosses the border into behavioural addiction. In the present study, addictive behaviour in relation to mobile phones was operationalised according to Brown’s classical model. He posits six aspects of behavioural addiction: salience, conflicts with other activities, euphoria / relief, the development of tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and relapse symptoms.
In this study, a total of 1223 students (12 to 19 years old) from all over Switzerland were interviewed. A descriptive overview of the most frequently used mobile phone functions such as SMS and making phone calls showed gender-specific differences in SMS usage but not in making phone calls. SMS is used more frequently by girls than by boys.
There are also some gender differences in the usage of advanced mobile phone functions: girls take photographs or video more frequently than boys do, while boys are the more frequent gamers, they retrieve E-mails more often, watch TV more often or use their mobile phone more often as a navigation device or compass.

Results
The empirical findings of this study suggest that behavioural addiction in the context of mobile phone usage has its own characteristics that differ from, for example, addiction to the Internet. It seems advisable to adapt the therapy concepts that are currently used to fit the characteristics of mobile phone addiction. The authors believe it is important in therapeutic practice to make the link between addictive mobile phone behaviour and specific personality traits such as impulsivity and activity, as well as family relationship issues (problematic child-parent relationships). These findings point to complex systemic interactions that must be taken into account in treatment plans. In addition to these risk factors for mobile phone addiction, the study indicates aspects that may be considered to be protective factors. A positive-stable relationships with parents (or the main caregiver) appears to provide a preventative effect.

Project leader

Partner

Forschungsstiftung Mobilkommunikation