The Conceptualization and Assessment of Problematic Mobile Phone Use

The Conceptualization and Assessment of Problematic Mobile Phone Use

Olatz Lopez-Fernandez (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium), Daria J. Kuss (Nottingham Trent University, UK), Mark D. Griffiths (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Joël Billieux (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch050


Despite its many undoubted advantages, mobile phone use has been associated with harmful and/or maladaptive behaviour. Problematic mobile phone use is considered as an inability of individuals to regulate their use of the mobile phone, and it eventually leads to negative consequences in daily life. The first goal of this article is to define and conceptualize the various facets of dysfunctional mobile phone use. The second goal is to describe the various steps of validating an instrument to assess problematic mobile phone use. Such an instrument needs to (1.) specify the user's mobile phone behaviour (i.e., the applications they use on their mobile phone), (2.) provide accurate measures of actual mobile phone use, and (3.) assess the extent of problematic mobile phone use. A comprehensive review of the existing validated questionnaires is provided. The theoretical and methodological limitations of the existing measures are then discussed.
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Problematic mobile phone use (PMPU) is associated with potentially harmful and/or maladaptive behaviour that can occur in a number of different circumstances while using mobile phones (e.g., phoning while driving, phoning in situations in which it is socially inappropriate, losing control over mobile phone use in emotionally laden contexts). PMPU is usually considered as an individual’s inability to control their use of mobile phones, and it eventually leads to negative consequences in their daily lives (e.g., financial problems, relationship problems, occupational and/or educational conflicts, sleep disturbances). PMPU is generally conceptualized within the framework of technological addictions (along with Internet-related addictions; for instance, see Griffiths, 1995; and Billieux, 2012).

The conceptualization of PMPU, as with other technological addictions, is controversial and has led to much debate. For example, Internet addiction (IA) has been conceptualized in many different ways (e.g., compulsive Internet use, Internet Use Disorder, problematic Internet use) and various distinct screening tools have been developed (King, Haagsma, Delfabbro, Gradisar, & Griffiths, 2013), leading to inconsistent findings regarding the prevalence rates and associated negative consequences (for reviews, see Kuss, 2012; Kuss, Griffiths, Karila, & Billieux, 2014). Following research into IA by many scholars (e.g., Griffiths, 2000; Starcevic, 2013), PMPU could likewise be considered a heterogeneous concept that has used different terms, of which PMPU is arguably the most common (Bianchi & Phillips, 2005; Billieux, Van Der Linden, D'Acremont, Ceschi, & Zermatten, 2007; Lopez-Fernandez, Honrubia-Serrano, Freixa-Blanxart, & Gibson, 2014). However, other researchers have used alternative terms, such as mobile phone addiction (Chóliz, 2010; Griffiths, 2013; Leung, 2008), mobile phone abuse (Fargues, Lusar, Jordania, & Sánchez, 2009; Pérez, Monje, & de León, 2012), mobile phone over-use (Jenaro, Flores, Gómez-Vela, González-Gil, & Caballo, 2007), mobile phone dependence (Toda et al., 2008), and nomophobia (Bragazzi & Puente, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Specific Use: This refers to subtypes of mobile phone behaviours that may cause PMPU (e.g. text-messaging).

Problematic Mobile Phone Use: This is an individual's inability to control their use of mobile phones, leading to negative consequences in their daily lives. This term is generally recognised as Problematic Mobile Phone Use (PMPU).

Conceptualization: To describe a scientific idea or theory in relation to refer to a specific topic, in this case problematic mobile phone use.

Assessment: To estimate or judge the quality or quantity of a specific concept; in this case the process to assess problematic use of mobile phones.

Generalised Use: In PMPU, this refers to the overall pattern of cognitions and behaviours that are associated with the overuse of any type of mobile phone application via de mobile phone.

Technological Addictions: A subset of behavioural addictions, and can be operationally defined as a non-substance addiction that involves excessive human-machine interaction (e.g., mobile phone use, video gaming) and includes the core components of addiction.

Internet-Related Addictions: These are addictions that relate to a specific Internet application such as online gaming and online gambling addiction. This term is generally recognised as Internet addiction (IA).

Cyber-Addictions: This is another name for online addictions (such as online gaming addiction, online gambling addiction, and online shopping addiction).

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