New research suggests prior studies on the impact of technology use on psychological well-being rely on flawed measures. UK investigators explain that surveys are often used to understand how people use their smartphone, but these are poorly related to actual smartphone use when measured with an app.
In other words, the researchers believe that existing evidence suggesting that screen time is “addictive” cannot be used to justify any change of policy. The finding is pertinent as the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee recently held an inquiry into social media use, including the effects of screen time on the health of young people.
In the new research, Dr. David Ellis of Lancaster University and Brittany Davidson from The University of Bath believe official policy should not solely rely on existing studies using self-reports. Ellis explains: “Knowing how much someone thinks or worries about their smartphone use leaves many questions unanswered.”
The investigative team examined 10 “addiction” surveys for measuring people’s technology use, such as the Smartphone Addiction Scale and the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale, which generate scores that determine use.
They then compared these self-reports with data from Apple Screen Time, which provides an objective measurement of:
• How many minutes people used their phones
• How often they picked it up
• How many notifications they received
The researchers discovered weak relationships between how much people think they use their smartphones and how much they actually do.
Davidson added, “Our results suggest that the majority of these self-report smartphone assessments perform poorly when attempting to predict real-world behavior. We need to revisit and improve these measurements moving forward.”
“Scales that focus on the notion of technology ‘addiction’ performed very poorly and were unable to classify people into different groups (e.g., high vs low use) based on their behavior.”
Source: Lancaster University/EurekAlert