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Scientists Examine Smartphone Addiction Using New App

posted 24 Jan 2014, 15:16 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Jan 2014, 15:17 ]

Scientists at the University of Bonn develop new app to examine smartphone addiction.

 BONNGERMANY (JANUARY 23, 2014) (REUTERS) -  A quick glance at Facebook to see what friends are posting, a photo sent with WhatsApp, a text message, email, twitter - all this and many things more smartphone owners use their beloved telephones for. A new app now allows them to measure their real use of the smartphone and see if there might be addictive tendencies involved.

The gadget spec URL could not be found
Reseachers at the Psycological Institute at the University in Bonn have created a programme called 'menthal'. "We have developed a new app, which measures the smartphone behaviour of its users, because we have noticed that users are often not able to estimate it themselves, because so many things with the smartphone work unconsciously. This means, we don't realise anymore, how often we look at the device. And this app we installed on some devices, in our pilot study 50 students, and then actually measure, what happens with the smartphones and how often," explains the head of the research group, Christian Montag.

The main key data - of course anonymously - is being transferred to a server, where the scientists can evaluate the smartphone use. On average the 50 students of the pilot study looked at their phone every 12 minutes. The aim of the research is to help smartphone users to understand their phone behaviour better. More participants are needed to achieve more accurate results, says Montag. But already now a tendency can be noticed: The smartphone has addictive potential.

"We really believe that there is a mechanism of addiction behind, we always compare this with a gambling machine. Even if you can't win money, there is always this positive surprise when you switch on the device. There is a new message, via WhatsApp, via facebook or a new email arrives. But of course also other content: I am looking forward to the next game, which I could use. And these little positive moments of surprise, they make people access this device again and again," says Montag.

The researchers have also found out that smartphone users do everything with their phones but call people. Only eight minutes out of a daily use of around two hours is actually used for calls.

Researchers are taking the question of data privacy protection very seriously. "We see when an app is being activated and when it's being switched off. Very important is to say, what we don't see. We are not looking into the app's and what someone is doing with them. We don't evaluate texts, no content, no videos, no audio, this is absolutely impossible. This means, we only see: 'Ah, now the app is being switched on or off.' Even this data is critical, this means that we stick to our standard of keeping the data in house, it's not being paired with third service providers. To hand out the date to third parties is completely out of the question and ruled out," says app developer Alexander Markowetz.

The programme 'menthal' works with the operation system 4.0 or higher, not with the i-phone.