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Understanding the construction of ‘behavior’ in smartphone addiction: A scoping review

James, Richard J.E.; Dixon, Grace; Dragomir, Maria Gabriela; Thirlwell, Edie; Hitcham, Lucy


Grace Dixon

Maria Gabriela Dragomir

Edie Thirlwell

Lucy Hitcham


It has been claimed that smartphone usage constitutes a behavioral addiction, characterised by compulsive, excessive use of one's phone and psychological withdrawal or distress when the phone is absent. However, there is uncertainty about key phenomenological and conceptual details of smartphone addiction. One of the central problems has been understanding the processes that link smartphone usage, and addiction. The question this paper aims to answer is straightforward: based on measures utilised in the literature, what does ‘behavior’ mean in the context of smartphone addiction? A scoping review of the smartphone addiction literature was undertaken. This identified 1305 studies collecting smartphone addiction data. Just under half (49.89%) of all published smartphone addiction papers did not report the collection of any smartphone specific behaviors. Those that did tended to focus on a small cluster of self-reported behaviors capturing volume of overall use: hours spent using a smartphone per day, number of pickups, duration of smartphone ownership, and types of app used. Approximately 10% of papers used logged behavioral data on phones. Although the theoretical literature places increasing focus on context and patterns of use, measurements of behavior tend to focus on broad, volumetric measures. The number of studies reporting behavior has decreased over time, suggesting smartphone addiction is becoming increasingly trait-like. Both major phone operating systems have proprietary apps that collected behavioral data by default, and research in the field should take advantage of these capabilities when measuring smartphone usage.


James, R. J., Dixon, G., Dragomir, M. G., Thirlwell, E., & Hitcham, L. (2023). Understanding the construction of ‘behavior’ in smartphone addiction: A scoping review. Addictive Behaviors, 137, Article 107503.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 20, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 26, 2022
Publication Date Feb 1, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 27, 2022
Journal Addictive Behaviors
Print ISSN 0306-4603
Electronic ISSN 1873-6327
Publisher Elsevier BV
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 137
Article Number 107503
Keywords Psychiatry and Mental health; Toxicology; Clinical Psychology; Medicine (miscellaneous)
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