Phonatics: Professor’s study shows phone addiction trend of cell phone addiction

Photo Illustration by Skye Duncan
Photo Illustration by Skye Duncan

By Abigail Loop
Staff Writer

If you see more of your cellphone screen on your way to class than people on the sidewalk or approaching cars on the street, you might have a problem.

A study by Dr. James Roberts, professor of marketing, found that cellphones play a larger than expected role in the lives of Baylor students.

According to a survey of Baylor students, women spend an average of 600 minutes a day using cellphones, while men spend an average of 485 minutes a day on cellphones. The study also found women favored cellphones for texting, emailing, Pinterest and Instagram, while men used cellphones to view YouTube videos and play games. For both groups, the highest activity was texting.

Roberts said he believes the reason women have a higher usage of cellphone activity is because they use them as social tools.

“From what we found in this study, women were using the cellphone more to maintain social relationships,” Roberts said. “Men were using it more for playing games and instrumental purposes, such as getting information.”

Although women seemed to use cellphones more, Roberts said he thinks all students are at risk for what he calls cellphone addiction.

“Young people have always been interested in technology,” Roberts said. “They’re comfortable with it. Nearly 90 percent of everything we do can be done with the cellphone and as it gets better and faster, the more we become addicted.”

The report, titled “The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students,” focuses on what makes cellphones and their activities so interesting, specifically to students.

“This study was interesting because it fills a hole in the research so far,” Roberts said. “No one had looked at what were the specific things that make a cellphone addictive. So we did.”

Roberts said he and his research team looked at 24 cellphone activities, how much time people spent on each and which activities people were drawn to most. The activities most prominently used could then be linked to the underlying addiction. Baylor students were used as subjects for this first round of research.

“We took 164 Baylor students from the marketing department who participated in an online survey,” Roberts said. “Everyone had to answer questions about cellphone addiction and also tell us an estimated time that they spent on their phones on each of the 24 activities. When that was done, we just added everything up.”

Among the 24 activities, apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest were part of the survey, as well as basic phone activities such as texting, calling, emailing and surfing the Internet.

The Woodlands senior Juanita Gamboa said while she thinks cellphones are a great source of information, she also thinks they can be a distraction from real life.

“I don’t use it as much as most people but I will use it when I’m bored and check the same stuff over and over, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest,” Gamboa said. “I realized it’s just a cycle and I’m trying to refrain from using it when I’m bored unless I need to communicate.”

Roberts said excessive cellphone usage is dangerous.

“I think the biggest risk with using your cellphone all the time is when you’re driving,” Roberts said. “People think they can multitask, but when you do a mental task it will deteriorate from the physical task that you’re performing. The risk goes up tenfold and I think that’s the biggest danger.”

According to the National Safety Council, 1.2 million crashes in 2012 involved talking on cellphones. It was estimated an additional 5 percent or more crashes in 2012 involved texting while driving.

Roberts said whether students are on the road or in the classroom studying, cellphones can impact lives.

“I think we just need a uniformed policy across campus about cellphone use,” Roberts said. “We just need to be more consistent. It would heal a lot of problems.”