Teens don’t seem to grow out of problematic cell phone use

Some teenagers develop a craving to use a cell phone during inappropriate times, and new research suggests it is not something that is likely to change as they become young adults. The study has been published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

“Teens is the U.S. have access to media like never before. They truly develop in a digitally immersive environment and for a small percentage of teens this can lead to pathological like dependence on technology. Yet we know very little about how these pathological symptoms look across time and development,” said study author Laura Stockdale of Brigham Young University and Loyola University Chicago.

By analyzing data from the Flourishing Families Project, the researchers examined problematic cell phone in adolescents as they transitioned to emerging adulthood. The 385 participants were first surveyed when they were between the ages of 17 and 19 — and surveyed again for two years after that.

The researchers found that problematic cell phone use was highly consistent over time. Teens who strongly agreed with statements such as “the amount of time I spend using my cell phone keeps me from doing other important work” at the beginning of the study tended to still strongly agree after three years.

“Pathological symptoms regarding cell-phone use seem to be stable across late adolescence and emerging adulthood. It isn’t a problem that is just going to go away as teens age and develop,” Stockdale told PsyPost.

“Problematic cell-phone use is also related to poorer mental health outcomes across time,” she added. But the ability to regulate negative emotions and to set and attain goals was not related to the development of pathological cell-phone use behaviors.

The majority of participants had owned a cell phone for several years. Future research could examine if there are any significant changes in behavior before and after having access to a cell phone.

“So many questions still need answered! This is a very new area of study. We need better research on the risk and protective factors to pathological cell-phone use tendencies, how these patterns continue into adulthood, and interventions,” Stockdale said.

“This is the first study of its kind. While it adds important information, it is not without limitations and we need way more research on this topic.”

The study, “Problematic cell phone use, depression, anxiety, and self-regulation: Evidence from a three year longitudinal study from adolescence to emerging adulthood“, was authored by Sarah M. Coyne, Laura Stockdale, and Kjersti Summers.