Problematic Use of the Internet and Smartphones in University Students: 2006-2017

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Mar 8;15(3):475. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15030475.


It has been more than a decade since a concern about the addictive use of the Internet and mobile phones was first expressed, and its possible inclusion into the lists of mental disorders has recently become a popular topic of scientific discussion. Thus, it seems to be a fitting moment to investigate the prevalence of this issue over time. The aim of the present study was to analyze the prevalence of the perception of problematic Internet and smartphone use in young people over the period 2006-2017. To this end, a questionnaire on Internet use habits and two questionnaires on the negative consequences of Internet and smartphone use were administered to a sample of 792 university students. The scores were then compared with the results of former studies that had used these questionnaires. The perception of problematic Internet and mobile phone use has increased over the last decade, social networks are considered responsible for this increase, and females are perceived to be more affected than males. The current study shows how strong smartphone and Internet addiction and social media overlap. Participants from 2017 report higher negative consequences of both Internet and mobile phone use than those from 2006, but long-term observations show a decrease in problematic use after a sharp increase in 2013. We conclude that the diagnosis of technological addictions is influenced by both time and social and culture changes.

Keywords: CERI; CERM; Internet addiction; behavioral addictions; mobile phone addiction; online social network; technological addictions; university students.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology*
  • Cell Phone
  • Female
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Online Social Networking
  • Prevalence
  • Smartphone*
  • Social Media
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Technology
  • Universities / trends*
  • Young Adult