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

APA Citation:

Fischer-Grote, L., Kothgassner, O. D., & Felnhofer, A. (2019). Risk factors for problematic smartphone use in children and adolescents: A review of existing literature. Neuropsychiatrie, 33, 179-190. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40211-019-00319-8

Abstract Created by REACH:

Adolescents and children (hereafter referred to as youth) are increasingly using smartphones, sometimes to the point where it becomes problematic (i.e., excessive smartphone use that impairs functioning), which is linked to poor outcomes (e.g., depression, obsessive behaviors). The current study narratively reviewed recent literature (2008–2019) on predictors of problematic smartphone use in international samples of youth. This review analyzed findings from 38 peer-reviewed studies and summarized several variables that were linked to problematic smartphone use, including demographic, family (e.g., parental education, parental smartphone control and enforcement, parent-child attachment, parenting style), and personality (e.g., neuroticism, self-esteem) factors. The findings from this review highlighted several family factors associated with more problematic smartphone use, including domestic violence in the home, parental addictive behavior, and firmer parental restrictions on smartphone use.



Subject Affiliation:



Childhood (birth - 12 yrs)
Preschool age (2 -5 yrs)
School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)


Review of Literature
Narrative Review


Fischer-Grote, Linda, Kothgassner, Oswald D., Felnhofer, Anna


Background 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. Objective 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. Methods A literature search was conducted in Google Scholar and PubMed. Results 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. Conclusion 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.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, LFG
Department of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, ODK
Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, AF


adolescents, children, problematic internet use, problematic smartphone use, smartphone addiction

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


Open access funding provided by Medical University of Vienna.

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