Digital media and wellbeing among children and adolescents in Ticino

+++Publication Alert+++ Duration, frequency, and time distortion: Which is the best predictor of problematic smartphone use in adolescents? A trace data study



21 February 2022

Problematic smartphone use (PSU) during adolescence has been associated with negative short- and long-term consequences for personal well-being and development. Valid and reliable predictors and indicators of PSU are urgently needed, and digital trace data can add valuable information beyond self-report data. The present study aimed to investigate whether trace data (duration and frequency of smartphone use), recorded via an app installed on participants’ smartphone, are correlated with self-report data on smartphone use. Additionally, the present study aimed to explore which usage indicators, i.e., duration, frequency, and time distortion of smartphone use, better predict PSU levels cross-sectionally and longitudinally, one year later. Results from a sample of 84 adolescents showed that adolescents tend to rely on the frequency of smartphone use when reporting on the time they spent with the smartphone. Traced duration of smartphone use as well as time distortion, i.e., over-estimation, are significant predictors of PSU. Methodological issues and theoretical implications related to predictors and indicators of PSU are discussed.