A new study published in PLOS ONE finds that people spend far more time watching content on their phones than they do on other devices, a trend that is accelerating and is affecting the future of what we watch.
Researchers from the University of Toronto and the University College London (UCL) compared the activity of 1,300 people across five different age groups, and found that, across the board, the amount of time people spent watching content was higher on phones than on other forms of devices.
The results show that people who spend more time on their smartphones than other devices are more likely to have negative associations about their social life and relationships, and they are also more likely than other age groups to have a negative view of technology and to perceive it as a negative influence on the world.
They also showed that, compared to other age group, the most engaged individuals were those who spent the most time watching social media content.
“The trend for increased exposure to mobile devices is accelerating across a range of contexts and individuals,” said Dr. Roberta M. Graziano, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Computer Science at the University at Buffalo.
“This may reflect both an increasing interest in mobile devices as an extension of our digital lives and an increase in the use of mobile devices by people who may be more concerned about the health and well-being of themselves and others.”
Dr. Gaziano and her co-authors also found that people in their age range were more likely not only to use smartphones to stay up-to-date on their social media activity but also to report increased levels of negative associations, including increased concern about their health and mental health, and reduced empathy and empathy for others.
While the findings suggest that people are becoming increasingly aware of the potential health and social impacts of mobile technology, the researchers are not surprised by the findings.
“Our findings suggest we are approaching the intersection of technology, health, social and psychology, which is a really interesting intersection,” said co-author and computer scientist David B. Roper, also a postdoc in the University’s Department of Information Science and Engineering.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act.
You need to be aware of what’s happening to your health and wellbeing, but you also need to keep an open mind about whether that’s a good thing or not.”
The study examined a variety of digital devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, and involved using a survey to ask respondents about their usage of these devices and how they viewed them.
In addition to the general health, life satisfaction, and well being, respondents were also asked about how they perceive their social and personal relationships.
Participants were also surveyed about how much they use social media platforms, including whether they use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
They were also given an online questionnaire that included questions about how the devices affected their lives, how they perceived their social relationships, whether they felt safe using the devices, and whether they used the devices to socialize with others.
The study found that respondents were significantly more likely on smartphones than on tablets, laptops, or a combination of both to report negative associations with social media, and to report decreased levels of empathy for the world, compared with other age categories.
The authors said that this finding, which could lead to a “new generation of ‘mobile-first’ attitudes,” was not surprising given the importance of these platforms for people’s lives.
“We found that the more people use a digital device, the more they perceive it negatively,” Dr. Ropers said.
“The more people are exposed to technology, they tend to perceive the world negatively.”
The findings were also reflected in how the people reported on their mobile devices and on their relationship with them.
“A significant number of people who used smartphones to keep up with their social networks said they were more or less unfazed by the negative association between their devices and their negative associations on the health of others,” Dr Roper said.
In addition to Dr. Gao, co-lead author and computer science professor, Dr. Joshua A. Krumholz, and Dr. Jennifer K. Cusack, both of UCL’s School of Information Sciences and Engineering, were the study’s senior authors.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (grant number NS134834 and grant number NS086785), the Canadian Institutes of Research (grants P30AI097986 and P30CA003687), the University Hospital of Southern Denmark (granted grant number 84724), and the National Science Foundation (granting number 102276), with additional support from the Department of Economics and Business Administration at the Graduate School of Business at the City University of New York.
The paper was published in the journal PLOS One.
For more news about research, visit the research newsroom.