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You don’t need to reduce screen time; try self-monitoring

January 11, 2023

Common sense says that fiddling with a cell phone means wasted time. But research conducted by San Diego State University in partnership with the City University of New York (USA) showed that monitoring the time connected to the screen through applications generates a more focused and conscious use of the cell phone, which leads to a higher productivity rate.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers interviewed 469 college students from the US states of California, New York, and Hawaii. The survey, which lasted three weeks, required all participants to fill out four questionnaires.

About half of the college students were instructed to download a monitoring app on their cell phones that allows users to track and set limits on their connected time. Those responsible for the study measured the productivity reported by those surveyed, as well as the amount of time spent on the device’s screen and user fatigue. They also analyzed the participants’ contentment with the productivity achieved.

They noted that while addiction or uncontrolled cell phone use can negatively impact people’s lives, monitored screen time – especially with specifically goals – can result in positive outcomes and greater overall user satisfaction.

“We theorized that individuals who tracked their cellphone usage and set goals surrounding that usage tended to have enhanced productivity and contentment with their productivity as they met their stated objectives,” said Abhari, an associate professor of management information systems at SDSU’s Fowler College of Business. “Previous research has shown that goal setting tends to raise performance expectations and we wanted to see if this theory held true for smartphone screen time as well.” 

The authors concluded that while uncontrolled cellphone use (or cellphone addiction) could negatively impact people’s lives, monitored screen time — particularly monitored screen time with specific goals in mind — can result in positive outcomes and higher overall user satisfaction.

“This study could lead system developers to embed features into mobile devices that enable self-monitoring,” said Abhari. “These features could improve quality screen time and enhance the relationship between humans and digital technology.” 

Source: SDSU