A new study from researchers at Baylor University has found that women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, while men students spend nearly eight hours.
“That’s astounding,” said lead author James Roberts, Ph.D., Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “As cell phone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility.”
The study found that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, and some indicated they get agitated when it is not in sight, said Roberts, lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.
The study, based on an online survey of 164 college students, examined 24 cell phone activities and found that time spent on 11 of those activities differed significantly across the sexes.
Some functions, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are associated significantly with cell phone addiction, the study found. But others that might seem to be addictive, such as Internet use and gaming, were not, according to the researchers.
The students reported spending the most time texting, with an average of 94.6 minutes a day. That was followed by sending emails (48.5 minutes), checking Facebook (38.6 minutes), surfing the Internet (34.4 minutes), and listening to music (26.9 minutes).
The study also found that women spend more time on their cell phones. While that finding seems contrary to the traditional view that men are more invested in technology, “women may be more inclined to use cell phones for social reasons, such as texting or emails to build relationships and have deeper conversations,” Roberts said.
Another finding is that men send about the same number of emails, but spend less time on each.
“That may suggest that they’re sending shorter, more utilitarian messages than their female counterparts,” Roberts said.
While men appear to be more occupied with using their cell phones for utilitarian or entertainment purposes, they “are not immune to the allure of social media,” Roberts said.
He noted they spent time visiting social networking sites such as as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Reasons they used Twitter were to follow sports figures, catch up on the news — “or, as one male student explained it, ‘waste time,’” Roberts said.
Excessive use of cell phones poses a number of possible risks for students, he noted.
“Cell phones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms,” he said. “For some, cell phones in class may provide a way to cheat.”
Obsessive cell phone use also can cause conflict, he noted, with everyone from professors and family to employers.
“Some people use a cell phone to dodge an awkward situation,” he said. “They may pretend to take a call, send a text, or check their phones.”
The researcher noted that cell phone use is a paradox in that it can be “both freeing and enslaving at the same time.”
“We need to identify the activities that push cell phone use from being a helpful tool to one that undermines our well-being and that of others,” Roberts said.