The self-control of smartphone use: Training young adults to break the habit
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Smartphone penetration is continuing to grow worldwide with these gadgets offering many benefits to users. However, negative effects of too much ‘screen time’ are beginning to be documented, particularly among younger cohorts. Deficient self-regulation is thought to be at the core of many problems facing society, not excluding internet and smartphone related addictions. According to the Strength Model (Baumeister, Vohs & Tice, 2007), self-regulation behaves like a muscle and can be improved with practice. As such, researchers have utilized self-control and inhibition training procedures to improve behaviours with deficient self-regulation at their core (Allom et al., 2016), though they have not yet been applied in the area of technology or smartphone use. The current study aimed to examine smartphone use in an Irish sample aged 18-35, and to test the hypothesis that a group receiving a smartphone inhibition training intervention would display reduced smartphone use when compared to a control group. The independent variable was thus intervention type. Participants’ phone use was monitored for five days, with the intervention administered in the middle of this period. Difference in smartphone use - in terms of both phone screen time and number of phone pick ups - pre to post intervention were the dependent variables examined between the two groups. Results indicate that the intervention did not reduce phone use, with no significant differences emerging between the groups on these difference scores. Present findings may be due to factors like short-term treatment effects or study limitations as discussed. Further research is needed to fully assess the effectiveness of self-control training in the area of smartphone use.
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