Consequences of Smartphone Use in Children's and Adolescents' Everyday Lives

Mobile Apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat dominate children’s and adolescents’ communication habits. Additionally, self-presentation on Instagram and Facebook is booming. Smartphones and the mobile internet have become fully integrated in children’s and adolescents’ daily lives. However, is the permanent connection and availability really “smart”? In adolescence, individuals are particularly vulnerable for the various dangers the smartphone use entails such as communication stress or cyber bullying. However, they can also strongly benefit from positive effects of smartphone use such as the bonding capital. Yet, existing research lacks a comprehensive analysis of the positive and negative effects of smartphone usage on adolescents’ and children’s development in the long term. Additionally, a systematic investigation of individual and contextual factors involved seems warranted.

This project aimed at filling these pressing research gaps and investigates the effects of smartphone use on perceived loneliness and school performance of children and adolescents using an innovative multi-method-design. In a first step, the participating students conducted guided interviews with peergroup members to investigate the role and significance of smartphone use in their daily lives. Based on the results of these interviews, we conducted a representative, longitudinal panel survey with children and adolescents as well as with their parents. The participating students helped designing and analyzing the results of this survey. Finally, all participating students recorded their individual smartphone use as well as the linked emotions and attitudes using the mobile experience sampling method, which allowed assessing adolescents’ motivations, attitudes and emotions in the moment itself. In sum, the participating students as highly active smartphone users contributed with their individual experiences to the investigation of the consequences of smartphone usage in adolescence in an important way. Finally, in addition to getting in touch with research methods in the social sciences, they learned to critically reflect their personal daily smartphone use.

This project has been completed.