Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds - InformationWeek

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11/4/2015
09:05 AM
David Wagner
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Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds

Average smartphone use is up to five hours per day, according to one study. What are we sacrificing to use our mobile devices that much?

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If you find yourself asking "Where does my time go?" the answer might be your smartphone.

A small study from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom indicates that we may use our smartphones about twice as much as we think we do. Study participants used their mobile devices more than 84 times per day for a total of about five hours.

The study asked 29 participants (an admittedly small sample size) aged 18 to 33 to allow an app to be installed on their Android-based smartphones to measure real usage of the device. The app measured how often the phones were accessed, for how long, and what they were being used for. The goal was to compare self-reported smartphone usage with "real" data. Participants estimated their phone usage at about half of what it actually was in terms of frequency of use and duration.

The study lasted two weeks, and all participants were faculty or students at the University of Lincoln in the UK. Six of the original 29 partcipants were dropped from the study's conclusions for various reasons.

The results appeared Oct. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE in an article titled "Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use."

The median number of times study participants looked at their smartphones for at least 10 seconds was 84. More than half of those engagements lasted less than 30 seconds, and total median usage was 5.05 hours per day.

(Image: Ababsolutum/iStock)

(Image: Ababsolutum/iStock)

Five hours? If we assume most people get eight hours of sleep a night (which sadly we know they often get less) and work for eight hours a day (which sadly we know they usually work more than that on weekdays), add that five hours of phone usage and that leaves three hours of our day for eating, talking to people, and generally living a life.

Is there time for everything?

It doesn't look like it. According to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics study, on an average day 83% of women and 65% of men spend some time doing household chores such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management. Adults living in households with children under age 6 spend an average of two hours per day providing primary childcare, while those living in homes with children aged 6-17 spend about 49 minutes per day engaged in childcare. Then there's the 2.8 hours the average person spends watching TV every day, and the 43 minutes per day the average person spends socializing such as visiting with friends or attending or hosting social events. And that's not even counting other leisure activities, including excercising or reading for personal enjoyment.

Granted, some of our smartphone use is during otherwise "down" time -- commuting, for example -- but the longest duration of usage, according to the study, took place during the night, presumably after work. It is starting to look like smartphone time is taking time from either our work, our family, or our sleep.

[ And if you want to stay healthy, don't cut sleep. Read How IT Workers Can Survive Cold and Flu Season. ]

And of course, some smartphone time is work time, and some of it passes for what we call family time (texting your mom or interacting with friends on social media). But it is increasingly clear smartphone time is infringing on "life" time, and we may not even realize it. If our reported smartphone use is half of what we think it is, that's 2.5 hours per day we don't even realize we're spending with these devices.

What would you do if you had 2.5 hours back in your life every day? Sleep? Take care of your house? Take the kids to a movie? Check your phone usage. You may find the extra hours are right there for the taking.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2015 | 8:34:58 AM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
I agree with you here but I'd still say that at least 25% of the emails I get every day are just that, a way to generate an electronic paper trail for future defense.  I feel like personal messages fall into the same trap, "I texted you" is used in social circles for expressing that you were invited, missed, etc. 
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2015 | 1:05:30 PM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
My greatest pet peeve, even though I understand why people do it, is the CYA email. As in, the one and only reason you chose to communicate via email was so you can later say, "I sent you an email about it" - as if that absolves you from handling a situation properly.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2015 | 8:37:44 AM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
I've found that email threads like this are more for telling everyone that you're thinking of working without actually doing anything.  Kind of a warm up before anything actually happens.  I also see them used as a stall tactic listing out a dozen things that might matter two or three months down the road but are instead used to hold up the start of a project. The biggest problem being that they ask one question at a time to drag the email thread out as long as possible.  I agree that complex problems should not be addressed over email, sending documentation, etc. is good but too often email is used for conversations that you'll need to have face to face later anyway.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 3:24:18 PM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
@David - When I was growing up, the TV was ALWAYS on in the background even while the family attending to other activities.  It was like an a friendly companion that just hung around as an accompaniment to whatever else you were doing at the time.  This horrified my husband who grew up in a house where you only had the TV on if you were sitting down watching it.  !?!??!  That was shocking to me.  I explained that we treated the TV like the radio - something to listen to during other activitities and if something caught your attention that was worth watching, well then perhaps you would stop and watch.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 3:08:33 PM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
@SaneIT - Effective.  Efficient.  These email threads that don't actually accomplish anything are the antithesis of these two tenants.  I've always felt that people, especially managers, need to take a "using email productively" class.  Topics would include:

What types of requests require a response and those that do not.

If you always expect a confirmation on an informational email, send a read receipt, don't expect people to always respond, "Noted!" "Understood."  It is a waste of time.

Trying to solve complex issues over email.  Don't.

Forwarding emails to others not involved in the original conversation without first asking the original participants.  Don't.

 

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 8:15:30 AM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
I'm going to argue that maybe we don't need to be quicker problem solvers and that we need to be effective problem solvers.  I find that people do make quicker decisions but does that solve a problem?  I see more of these fast decisions being mad to get to a solution rather than a more well thought out solution the first time.  To me it's solving problems by a 1000 cuts rather than fully understanding the problem and working through it.  I'm not saying every problem is solved this way now but I see so many email and text threads that go 50 messages deep when they could have been resolved with one. 
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
11/6/2015 | 8:08:05 AM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
@SaneIT,

Addictive? Absolutely. I was trying to get at that without being too divisive. Dave himself posted an article some time ago covering how the modern attention span has been shortened to... I think seven seconds (in large part due to device use). That's terrifying. People have to check their phones. There are some tangible benefits to it, though. That same study showed we're quicker problem-solvers as a result. We can absorb the most important information in front of us at a glance. It's a big change in society that took us overnight. Benefits and drawbacks.
dried_squid
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dried_squid,
User Rank: Moderator
11/5/2015 | 3:20:16 PM
More is better
    Philip Kotler in "Conftronting Captialism" considers "marketing as the engine of the economy". I saw him present on booktv.org. I purchased the book.

    We could blame the marketing people for pulling our strings, or ... look in the mirror.

    Has anyone figured out if "smartphone use" is reactive, or proactive? For me, smart phone use is not practical, I rather spend the money, the additional cost of unlimited connect, on food purchased locally, or paper books purchased locally, or music purchased locally. More me and jobs in my city, and life first hand. Maybe it costs a little more.

    I'm employed, and five hours a day seems like a lot of money - 5 x my hourly wage.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/5/2015 | 9:11:33 AM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
I think it's less killing time and more of an addictive trait.  People are addicted to notification counters, there have been studies that people become more anxious when their smart phones are taken away.  The fear there is that they might miss something.  We have become an immediate communication society so people feel the need to be connected at all times.  The more communication you do this way the harder the habit of constantly checking for new information is. 
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2015 | 12:25:33 PM
Re: Smartphone Use Ballooning To 5 Hours A Day, Study Finds
I'm at the end of a two-day stretch of not having a phone. The digital detox was 1. welcome and 2. a great lesson in how often I (and those around me) are connected. Everywhere I go, people are staring at a screen - waiting for the elevator, on the elevator, waiting for the train, walking down the sidewalk. Of course, I'm totally guilty of this too, but now I'm making a conscious effort to check my phone less frequently.
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