Is smartphone addiction really an addiction?

I

Panova T., Carbonell X. Is smartphone addiction really an addiction? Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2018 Jun 1; 7(2): 252–259 (full PDF).

Aims

In light of the rise in research on technological addictions and smartphone addiction in particular, the aim of this paper was to review the relevant literature on the topic of smartphone addiction and determine whether this disorder exists or if it does not adequately satisfy the criteria for addiction.

Methods

We reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies on smartphone addiction and analyzed their methods and conclusions to make a determination on the suitability of the diagnosis “addiction” to excessive and problematic smartphone use.

Results

Although the majority of research in the field declares that smartphones are addictive or takes the existence of smartphone addiction as granted, we did not find sufficient support from the addiction perspective to confirm the existence of smartphone addiction at this time. The behaviors observed in the research could be better labeled as problematic or maladaptive smartphone use and their consequences do not meet the severity levels of those caused by addiction.

Discussion and conclusions

Addiction is a disorder with severe effects on physical and psychological health. A behavior may have a similar presentation as addiction in terms of excessive use, impulse control problems, and negative consequences, but that does not mean that it should be considered an addiction. We propose moving away from the addiction framework when studying technological behaviors and using other terms such as “problematic use” to describe them. We recommend that problematic technology use is to be studied in its sociocultural context with an increased focus on its compensatory functions, motivations, and gratifications.

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