Research Article: Transitions in smartphone addiction proneness among children: The effect of gender and use patterns

Date Published: May 30, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Jeng-Tung Chiang, Fong-Ching Chang, Kun-Wei Lee, Szu-Yuan Hsu, Marianna Mazza.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217235

Abstract

This study assessed the incidence of transitions in smartphone addiction proneness (SAP) among children and examined the effects of gender, use patterns (social networking sites (SNSs) use and smartphone gaming) and depression on smartphone addiction transitions.

A representative sample of 2,155 children from Taipei completed longitudinal surveys in both 2015 (5th grade) and 2016 (6th grade). Latent transition analysis (LTA) was used to characterize transitions in SAP and to examine the effects of gender, use patterns and depression on SAP transitions.

LTA identified four latent statuses of SAP: about half of the children were in non-SAP status, one-fifth were in tolerance status, one-sixth were in withdrawal status, and one-seventh were in high-SAP status. Both boys and girls had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and tolerance in 6th grade than in 5th grade, whereas in both grades boys had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and withdrawal, and girls had a higher prevalence of non-SAP and tolerance. Controlling for parents’ education, family structure, and household income, higher use of SNSs by children, increasing use of mobile gaming and higher levels of depression were individually associated with increased odds of being in one of the three SAP statuses other than non-SAP. When all three covariates were jointly entered into the model, usage of SNSs and depression remained significant predictors.

Both boys and girls tended to transition to tolerance or high-SAP statuses, while children’s depression and their usage of SNSs increased the risk of smartphone addiction.

Partial Text

Smartphones have become a part of life for many children. Children spend more time on new media than on traditional media, and frequently use mobile devices to watch videos and for online gaming, searching, social networking, and instant messaging [1]. Although most Social Networking Sites (SNSs) (e.g., Facebook) state that the minimum age requirement for creating an account is 13, more children are using social networking sites (SNSs) and instant messaging. The prevalence of smartphone addiction proneness (SAP) among children and adolescents is rapidly increasing, particularly in Asian countries. A Korean study showed that 31% of middle school students had SAP [2]. Studies found that children’s excessive use of mobile devices had negative health impacts such as dry eye disease [3], myopia [4], sleep deprivation [5], anxiety [6], problem behaviors, and lower levels of emotional intelligence [7].

This study identified four latent statuses of SAP: non-SAP, tolerance, withdrawal, and high-SAP. Both boys and girls had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and tolerance in the 6th grade than in the 5th grade. In either grade, boys had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and withdrawal, while girls had a higher prevalence of non-SAP and tolerance. Korean studies have found that boys have higher smartphone addiction risk behaviors [33], while girls tend to use mobile devices more frequently [6]. A German study found that girls were more prone to smartphone addiction [34]. Since boys and girls have different levels of puberty development, smartphone use patterns, and psychological distress prevalence, whether these factors or other determinants cause gender differences in the prevalence of SAP status will require further research. Further development and implementation of SAP prevention programs also are needed to reduce the levels of transition to more severe levels of SAP status among children.

This is the first study using LTA to identify the transition patterns of smartphone addiction among children. The strength of this study is that a large sample of students (2155) was surveyed in grade 5 and was followed up a year later in grade 6 to explore the effects of smartphone use patterns and depression on transitions in smartphone addiction among children. This study identified four latent statuses of SAP: about half of the children were in non-SAP status, one-fifth were in tolerance status, one-sixth were in withdrawal status, and one-seventh were in high-SAP status. Boys had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and withdrawal, while girls had a higher prevalence of non-SAP and tolerance. Of 5th grade children in non-SAP status, 21% had transitioned to tolerance by the 6th grade; 9% had transitioned to withdrawal; and, 5% had transitioned to high-SAP. Both boys and girls had a higher prevalence of high-SAP and tolerance in the 6th grade than in the 5th grade. Controlling for parents’ education, family structure, and household income, for both boys and girls a higher rate of SNSs usage, mobile gaming and depression was individually associated with an increase in the odds of being in one of the three SAP statuses other than non-SAP. When all three covariates were jointly incorporated into the model, SNSs usage and depression remained significant predictors. Children’s SNSs usage and depression increased the risks of smartphone addiction.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217235

 

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