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06.09.2019 | review Open Access

Risk factors for problematic smartphone use in children and adolescents: a review of existing literature

MSc. Linda Fischer-Grote, Mag. Dr. Oswald D. Kothgassner, Mag. Dr. Anna Felnhofer
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The percentage of smartphone users—especially among minors—is growing, and so is the body of literature hinting at increasing rates of problematic smartphone use in children and adolescents. However, comprehensive reviews regarding this issue are still scarce.


The main aim of this review was to provide an overview of studies focusing on specific risk factors predicting problematic smartphone use in children and adolescents.


A literature search was conducted in Google Scholar and PubMed.


The search yielded 38 articles that met the criteria for inclusion in this review. Research regarding influencing factors such as gender, age, and social, family, and personality factors, as well as duration of use and use patterns, could be found. Results seem to cautiously suggest that using a smartphone for gaming and social networking might be risk factors, whereas having good friendships might constitute a protective factor. Also, female adolescents seem to be prone to a higher smartphone addiction risk than male adolescents. For family, school, and personality factors, results are still scarce, and more research is needed. Nevertheless, strict parenting, low self-control, and low self-esteem seem to increase risks for problematic use, whereas academic motivation and school success might decrease this risk.


A concise theoretical conceptualization of problematic smartphone use and corresponding standardized measures are needed to increase comparability of future studies and to thereby add to a clearer understanding of this contested concept.
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