Social Media Drives Cellphone Addiction Among College Students

SEPTEMBER 09, 2014
Aimee Simone, Associate Editor
College students who used their phones for social media were more likely to become addicted to the devices.

College students spend close to 9 hours on their cellphones each day and may be more likely to become addicted to them, depending on how they use the devices, new research suggests. The study, published online August 26, 2014, in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors, also found that cellphone activities and their relationship to addiction vary among men and women.

A total of 164 students attending a university in Texas completed an online survey about cellphone addiction. The questionnaire asked students to detail the amount of time they spent on 24 cellphone activities, including texting, making phone calls, sending emails, playing games, using social media, and listening to music.

Overall, students reported spending 94.6 minutes texting, 48.5 minutes sending emails, 38.6 minutes perusing Facebook, and 34.4 minutes surfing the Internet on their phones each day. Women spent significantly more time on their phones, dedicating 10 hours to the device daily, compared to about 7.6 hours among men.

In addition, more than double the amount of women than men reported sending more than 11 emails from their phones each day. Women also scored significantly higher on the cellphone addiction test that the researchers used to analyze the survey responses.

The results indicated that 6 activities were associated with cellphone addiction among all students, regardless of gender. In addition to the number of calls made and texts sent, using Pinterest, Instagram, and the iPod app were associated with an increased likelihood of cellphone addiction. However, using apps that fell into an “other” category, such as news, weather, and sports apps, decreased the risk for addiction.

When analyzed by gender, the time spent sending emails, using a Bible app, and using Twitter were positively associated with cellphone addiction among men, while using Amazon was related to addiction among women. However, using the Bible app and Twitter decreased the likelihood of addiction among women.

While social media drove addiction among both men and women, Pinterest and Instagram use predicted addiction among women, while Facebook and Twitter use were signs of addiction among men.

“Overall, the findings seem to suggest that a cellphone user’s time spent on various social networking sites, like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, is a good indicator of a possible cellphone addiction,” the authors of the study wrote. “In regard to [cellphone addiction] among females, the present study suggests that social motives drive attachment to one’s cellular device.”

Although certain activities were associated with cellphone addiction, the authors suggested that additional factors might play a role. Characteristics of the phone itself, such as noises that signal incoming messages, may also fuel cellphone addiction, they noted. Addiction to the devices could also be a sign of a deeper, emotional issue, the authors suggested.

“An alternative view suggests that addiction to one’s cellphone is a ‘secondary addiction,’ and that cellphone use is ultimately an attempt to escape another, more significant problem, such as boredom, low self-esteem, relationship trouble, etc.”

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