1. Study finds more screen time correlated with less happiness in young people

    February 13, 2018 by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

    To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

    On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.

    Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

    “Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

    Total screen abstinence doesn’t lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

    “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use,” Twenge said. “Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising — two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”

    Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens. Specifically, young people’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That’s the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

    “By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” she said. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”


  2. Study suggests bosses who ‘phone snub’ their employees risk losing trust, engagement

    January 2, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Baylor University press release:

    Supervisors who cannot tear themselves away from their smartphones while meeting with employees risk losing their employees’ trust and, ultimately, their engagement, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

    James A. Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, published their latest study — “Put Down Your Phone and Listen to Me: How Boss Phubbing Undermines the Psychological Conditions Necessary for Employee Engagement” — in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Roberts and David are known nationally and internationally for researching the effects of smartphone use on relationships.

    Their newest study examines “boss phubbing” (boss phone snubbing), which the researchers define as “an employee’s perception that his or her supervisor is distracted by his or her smartphone when they are talking or in close proximity to each other” and how that activity affects the supervisor-employee relationship.

    “Our research reveals how a behavior as simple as using a cellphone in the workplace can ultimately undermine an employee’s success,” the researchers wrote. “We present evidence that boss phubbing lowers employees’ trust in their supervisors and ultimately leads to lower employee engagement.”

    The research is composed of three studies that surveyed 200, 95 and 118 respondents, respectively. Those 413 who were surveyed — representing both supervisors and employees — responded to statements that assessed the nature of their work, levels of trust and engagement. Examples of survey statements included: “My boss places his/her cellphone where I can see it when we are together,” “When my boss’ cellphone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation” and “I can rely on my supervisor to keep the promises he/she makes.”

    The study found:

    • 76 percent of those surveyed showed a lack of trust in a supervisor who phubbed them
    • 75 percent showed decreases in psychological meaningfulness, psychological availability and psychological safety
    • The lack of trust and decreases in those key areas led to a 5 percent decrease in employee engagement

    “Employees who experience boss phubbing and have lower levels of trust for their supervisor are less likely to feel that their work is valuable or conducive to their own professional growth, and employees who work under the supervision of an untrusted, phubbing supervisor tend to have lower confidence in their own ability to carry out their job,” David said. “Both of those things negatively impact engagement.”

    Roberts, who authored the book “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?,” said this study offers significant managerial implications.

    “Phubbing is a harmful behavior,” he said. “It undermines any corporate culture based on respect for others. Thus, it is crucial that corporations create a culture embodied by care for one another.”

    David said employees and supervisors alike cannot be fully present in face-to-face interactions when distracted by their smartphones.

    “Developing the self-control to put away your smartphone in favor of meaningful, distraction-free interactions with your supervisor and other coworkers will yield benefits that far outweigh that text message, unread email or social media post,” she said.

    The study offered several steps that managers could take to change the culture and mitigate the negative effects of smartphone use.

    • Create a culture in which supervisors do not feel pressure to immediately respond to emails and messages from their superiors while meeting with their employees.
    • Structure performance criteria in a manner which motivates bosses to build healthy superior-subordinate relationships. This might include annual ratings by their subordinates.
    • Train supervisors and employees on the importance of face-to-face interactions and sensitize them to the potentially negative consequences of phubbing on employee attitudes and engagement.
    • Set formal smartphone policies by setting clear rules for smartphone use, access and security — and detail specific consequences for violating those rules.

    Roberts and David said as smartphones become more ubiquitous, researchers need to continue to study the implications in the workplace.

    “Given that smartphone use in the workplace is nearly universal and has become an integral mode of communication, it is crucial that researchers investigate the impact of smartphone use in the workplace on career choices and adjustment,” they wrote. “Today’s employees face the real possibility that, left unattended to, smartphone use may complicate their careers by undermining vocational adjustment and lowering their job engagement.”


  3. Study suggests smartphone addiction creates imbalance in brain

    December 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Radiological Society of North America press release:

    Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).


  4. Study suggests punctuation in text messages helps replace cues found in face-to-face conversations

    November 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Binghamton University press release:

    Emoticons, irregular spellings and exclamation points in text messages aren’t sloppy or a sign that written language is going down the tubes — these “textisms” help convey meaning and intent in the absence of spoken conversation, according to newly published research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

    “In contrast with face-to-face conversation, texters can’t rely on extra-linguistic cues such as tone of voice and pauses, or non-linguistic cues such as facial expressions and hand gestures,” said Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Celia Klin. “In a spoken conversation, the cues aren’t simply add-ons to our words; they convey critical information. A facial expression or a rise in the pitch of our voices can entirely change the meaning of our words.”

    “It’s been suggested that one way that texters add meaning to their words is by using “textisms” — things like emoticons, irregular spellings (sooooo) and irregular use of punctuation (!!!).”

    A 2016 study led by Klin found that text messages that end with a period are seen as less sincere than text messages that do not end with a period. Klin pursued this subject further, conducting experiments to see if people reading texts understand textisms, asking how people’s understanding of a single-word text (e.g., yeah, nope, maybe) as a response to an invitation is influenced by the inclusion, or absence, of a period.

    “In formal writing, such as what you’d find in a novel or an essay, the period is almost always used grammatically to indicate that a sentence is complete. With texts, we found that the period can also be used rhetorically to add meaning,” said Klin. “Specifically, when one texter asked a question (e.g., I got a new dog. Wanna come over?), and it was answered with a single word (e.g., yeah), readers understood the response somewhat differently depending if it ended with a period (yeah.) or did not end with a period (yeah). This was true if the response was positive (yeah, yup), negative (nope, nah) or more ambiguous (maybe, alright). We concluded that although periods no doubt can serve a grammatical function in texts just as they can with more formal writing — for example, when a period is at the end of a sentence — periods can also serve as textisms, changing the meaning of the text.”

    Klin said that this research is motivated by an interest in taking advantage of a unique moment in time when scientists can observe language evolving in real time.

    “What we are seeing with electronic communication is that, as with any unmet language need, new language constructions are emerging to fill the gap between what people want to express and what they are able to express with the tools they have available to them,” said Klin. “The findings indicate that our understanding of written language varies across contexts. We read text messages in a slightly different way than we read a novel or an essay. Further, all the elements of our texts — the punctuation we choose, the way that words are spelled, a smiley face — can change the meaning. The hope, of course, is that the meaning that is understood is the one we intended. Certainly, it’s not uncommon for those of us in the lab to take an extra second or two before we send texts. We wonder: How might this be interpreted? ‘Hmmm, period or no period? That sounds a little harsh; maybe I should soften it with a “lol” or a winky-face-tongue-out emoji.'”

    With trillions of text messages sent each year, we can expect the evolution of textisms, and of the language of texting more generally, to continue at a rapid rate, wrote the researchers. Texters are likely to continue to rely on current textisms, as well to as create new textisms, to take the place of the extra-linguistic and nonverbal cues available in spoken conversations. The rate of change for “talk-writing” is likely to continue to outpace the changes in other forms of English.

    “The results of the current experiments reinforce the claim that the divergence from formal written English that is found in digital communication is neither arbitrary nor sloppy,” said Klin. “It wasn’t too long ago that people began using email, instant messaging and text messaging on a regular basis. Because these forms of communication provide limited ways to communicate nuanced meaning, especially compared to face-to-face conversations, people have found other tools.”

    Klin believes that this subject could be studied further.

    “An important extension would be to have a situation that more closely mimics actual texting, but in the lab where we can observe how different cues, such as punctuation, abbreviations and emojis, contribute to texters’ understanding,” she said. “We might also examine some of the factors that should influence texters’ understanding, such as the social relationship between the two texters or the topic of the text exchange, as their level of formality should influence the role of things like punctuation.”


  5. Study looks at mental health risks of too much screen time

    November 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    Increased time spent in front of a screen — in the form of computers, cell phones and tablets — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicide-related behaviors and thoughts in American young people, especially girls, according to a new study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean Twenge. The findings point to the need for parents to monitor how much time their children are spending in front of media screens.

    “These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming,” Twenge said. “Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously.”

    Twenge, along with SDSU graduate student Gabrielle Martin and colleagues Thomas Joiner and Megan Rogers at Florida State University, looked at questionnaire data from more than 500,000 U.S. teens found in two anonymous, nationally representative surveys that have been conducted since 1991. They also looked at data suicide statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    They found that the suicide rate for girls aged 13-18 increased by 65 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the number of girls experiencing so-called suicide-related outcomes — feeling hopeless, thinking about suicide, planning for suicide or attempting suicide — rose by 12 percent. The number of teen girls reporting symptoms of severe depression increased by 58 percent.

    “When I first saw these sudden increases in mental health issues, I wasn’t sure what was causing them,” said Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. “But these same surveys ask teens how they spend their leisure time, and between 2010 and 2015, teens increasingly spent more time with screens and less time on other activities. That was by far the largest change in their lives during this five-year period, and it’s not a good formula for mental health.”

    The researchers returned to the data and looked to see if there was a statistical correlation between screen-time and depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes. They found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours per day on electronic devices reported at least one suicide-related outcome, compared to only 28 percent of those who spent less than an hour a day on devices. Depressive symptoms were more common in teens who spent a lot of time on their devices, as well.

    The findings fit with previous studies that have linked spending more time on social media to unhappiness.

    On the positive side, the researchers found that spending time away from screen and engaging in in-person social interaction, sports and exercise, doing homework, attending religious services, etc., was linked to having fewer depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes. The researchers reported their findings today in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

    While economic struggles are generally thought to be linked to depression and suicide, the U.S. economy was improving between 2010 and 2015, so that is unlikely to be the primary driver of these increases, Twenge noted.

    “Although we can’t say for sure that the growing use of smartphones caused the increase in mental health issues, that was by far the biggest change in teens’ lives between 2010 and 2015,” she said.

    The good news? You don’t have to totally give up on electronic devices to lower your risk for depression and suicide-relayed outcomes. Twenge said that limiting screen-time to one or two hours per day would statistically fall into the safe zone for device usage.


  6. Study suggests more teens than ever aren’t getting enough sleep

    October 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    If you’re a young person who can’t seem to get enough sleep, you’re not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night than older generations. One possible reason? Young people are trading their sleep for smartphone time.

    Most sleep experts agree that adolescents need 9 hours of sleep each night to be engaged and productive students; less than 7 hours is considered to be insufficient sleep. A peek into any bleary-eyed classroom in the country will tell you that many youths are sleep-deprived, but it’s unclear whether young people today are in fact sleeping less.

    To find out, Twenge, along with psychologist Zlatan Krizan and graduate student Garrett Hisler — both at Iowa State University in Ames — examined data from two long-running, nationally representative, government-funded surveys of more than 360,000 teenagers. The Monitoring the Future survey asked U.S. students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades how frequently they got at least 7 hours of sleep, while the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey asked 9th-12th-grade students how many hours of sleep they got on an average school night.

    Combining and analyzing data from both surveys, the researchers found that about 40% of adolescents in 2015 slept less than 7 hours a night, which is 58% more than in 1991 and 17% more than in 2009.

    Delving further into the data, the researchers learned that the more time young people reported spending online, the less sleep they got. Teens who spent 5 hours a day online were 50% more likely to not sleep enough than their peers who only spent an hour online each day.

    Beginning around 2009, smartphone use skyrocketed, which Twenge believes might be responsible for the 17% bump between 2009 and 2015 in the number of students sleeping 7 hours or less. Not only might teens be using their phones when they would otherwise be sleeping, the authors note, but previous research suggests the light wavelengths emitted by smartphones and tablets can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythm. The researchers reported their findings in the journal Sleep Medicine.

    “Teens’ sleep began to shorten just as the majority started using smartphones,” said Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. “It’s a very suspicious pattern.”

    Students might compensate for that lack of sleep by dozing off during daytime hours, adds Krizan.

    “Our body is going to try to meet its sleep needs, which means sleep is going to interfere or shove its nose in other spheres of our lives,” he said. “Teens may catch up with naps on the weekend or they may start falling asleep at school.”

    For many, smartphones and tablets are an indispensable part of everyday life, so they key is moderation, Twenge stresses. Limiting usage to 2 hours a day should leave enough time for proper sleep, she says. And that’s valuable advice for young and old alike.

    “Given the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health, both teens and adults should consider whether their smartphone use is interfering with their sleep,” she says. “It’s particularly important not to use screen devices right before bed, as they might interfere with falling asleep.”


  7. Study suggests cellphone ownership may increase incidence of cyberbullying in grade school

    October 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Pediatrics press release:

    Most research on cyberbullying has focused on adolescents. But a new study that examined cell phone ownership among children in third to fifth grades finds they may be particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying.

    The study abstract, “Cell Phone Ownership and Cyberbullying in 8-11 Year Olds: New Research,” will be presented Monday, Sept. 18 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

    Researchers collected survey data on 4,584 students in grades 3, 4 and 5 between 2014 and 2016. Overall, 9.5 percent of children reported being a victim of cyberbullying. Children who owned cell phones were significantly more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying, especially in grades 3 and 4.

    “Parents often cite the benefits of giving their child a cell phone, but our research suggests that giving young children these devices may have unforeseen risks as well,” said Elizabeth K. Englander, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass.

    Across all three grades, 49.6 of students reported owning a cell phone. The older the student, the more likely to report cell phone ownership: 59.8 percent of fifth graders, 50.6 percent of fourth graders, and 39.5 percent of third graders reported owning their own cell phone. Cell phone owners in grades three and four were more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying. Across all three grades, more cell phone owners admitted they have been a cyberbully themselves.

    According to the researchers, the increased risk of cyberbullying related to phone ownership could be tied to increased opportunity and vulnerability. Continuous access to social media and texting increases online interactions, provides more opportunities to engage both positively and negatively with peers, and increases the chance of an impulsive response to peers’ postings and messages.

    Englander suggests that this research is a reminder for parents to consider the risks as well as the benefits when deciding whether to provide their elementary school-aged child with a cell phone.

    “At the very least, parents can engage in discussions and education with their child about the responsibilities inherent in owning a mobile device, and the general rules for communicating in the social sphere,” Englander said.


  8. Study suggests drivers find it harder to ignore a ringing phone than to ignore the risk

    September 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    Drivers find it difficult to ignore a ringing phone but they do ignore the dangers, with a new QUT study revealing almost 50 per cent believe locating and answering a ringing phone is not as risky as talking and texting.

    The research undertaken by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety — Queensland (CARRS-Q) and published in the PLOS ONE journal has found locating a ringing phone, checking who is calling, and rejecting or answering the call, is the most frequent mobile phone task undertaken by drivers.

    Lead researcher Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios said drivers did not believe that locating and answering a ringing phone was as risky as talking, texting or browsing.

    “The study of 484 Queensland drivers found 45 per cent admit to locating and answering a ringing phone, compared to 28 per cent who reported speaking on a handheld device.

    “Also concerning is that more drivers reported looking at a screen for more than 2 seconds or locating and answering a ringing phone, than they did talking on a handheld phone, texting or browsing.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said when considering the risk of these different mobile phone tasks, most drivers underestimated the distracting dangers of passive phone use.

    Finding and reaching for a ringing phone is perceived by drivers as having a mid-range crash risk, however research has showed that this task is one of the most risky activities a driver can engage in,” he said.

    “This is because drivers are likely to adapt their driving behaviour when talking, texting and browsing, by reducing their speed, increasing their distance from the vehicle in front and scanning their environment more frequently.

    “On the other hand, a ringing mobile phone can occur at any time without giving time for the driver to adapt their behaviour and therefore increases the likelihood of a crash. “This mismatch in perception of risk is a major concern revealed by the study.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said using a mobile phone while driving had been shown to increase crash risk four-fold.

    “Novice drivers are particularly at risk as they are more likely to drive while using a mobile phone.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said other findings in the study included:

    • Despite the research, 12 per cent drivers still don’t believe talking on a handheld phone is dangerous
    • Drivers actively avoid police detection, with about 70 per cent admitting to being on the lookout for police when using their phone
    • Drivers keep their phones low and cover them to evade police detection
    • On a typical day, drivers are more likely to look at their mobile phone for more than 2 seconds, than they are to text or browse

  9. Blue light emitted by screens damages our sleep

    September 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Haifa press release:

    The short-wavelength blue light, emitted by the screens we watch, damages the duration, and even more so, the quality of our sleep. This is the conclusion of a new study undertaken by the University of Haifa and Assuta Sleep Clinic. The study also found that watching screens that emit red light does not cause damage, and sleep after exposure to it was similar to normal sleep. “The light emitted by most screens — computers, smartphones, and tablets — is blue light that damages the body’s cycles and our sleep,” explains Prof. Abraham Haim from the University of Haifa, one of the authors of the study. “The solution must be the use of the existing filters that prevent the emission of this light.”

    Previous studies have already shown that watching screens before going to sleep damages our sleep. It has also been found that exposure to blue light with wave lengths of 450-500 nanometers suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone secreted at night that is connected with normal body cycles and sleep. The new study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, was undertaken by researchers Prof. Abraham Haim, head of the Israeli center for interdisciplinary research in chronobiology at the University of Haifa; doctorate student Amit Shai Green of the Center for Interdisciplinary Chronobiological Research at the University of Haifa and the Sleep and Fatigue Center at Assuta Medical Center; Dr. Merav Cohen-Zion of the School of Behavioral Sciences at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo; and Prof. Yaron Dagan of the Research Institute for Applied Chronobiology at Tel Hai Academic College. The researchers sought to examine whether there is any difference in sleep patterns following exposure to blue screen light as compared to red light prior to sleep, and furthermore, to find which is more disruptive: wavelength or intensity?

    The study participants were 19 healthy subjects aged 20-29 who were not aware of the purpose of the study. In the first part of the trial, the participants wore an actigraph for one week (an actigraph is a device that provides an objective measurement of the time when an individual falls asleep and wakes up). They also completed a sleep diary and a questionnaire about their sleeping habits and quality of sleep. In the second part of the trial, which took place at Assuta’s Sleep Laboratory, the participants were exposed to computer screens from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. — the hours when the pineal gland begins to produce and excrete melatonin. The participants were exposed to four types of light: high-intensity blue light, low-intensity blue light, high-intensity red light, and low-intensity red light. Following exposure to light, they were connected to instruments that measure brain waves and can determine the stages of sleep a person undergoes during the course of the night, including awakenings not noticed by the participants themselves. In the morning, the participants completed various questionnaires relating to their feelings.

    On average, exposure to blue light reduced the duration of sleep by approximately 16 minutes. In addition, exposure to blue light significantly reduced the production of melatonin, whereas exposure to red light showed a very similar level of melatonin production to the normal situation. The researchers explain that the impaired production of melatonin reflects substantial disruption of the natural mechanisms and the body’s biological clock. Thus, for example, it was found that exposure to blue light prevents the body from activating the natural mechanism that reduces body temperature. “Naturally, when the body moves into sleep it begins to reduce its temperature, reaching the lowest point at around 4:00 a.m. When the body returns to its normal temperature, we wake up,” Prof. Haim explains. “After exposure to red light, the body continued to behave naturally, but exposure to blue light led the body to maintain its normal temperature throughout the night — further evidence of damage to our natural biological clock.”

    The most significant finding in terms of the disruption of sleep was that exposure to blue light drastically disrupts the continuity of sleep. Whereas after exposure to red light (at both intensities) people woke up an average of 4.5 times (unnoticed awakenings), following exposure to weak blue light 6.7 awakenings were recorded, rising to as many as 7.6 awakenings following exposure to strong blue light. Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that the participants reported in the questionnaires that the felt more tired and in a worse mood after exposure to blue light.

    “Exposure to screens during the day in general, and at night in particular, is an integral part of our technologically advanced world and will only become more intense in the future. However, our study shows that it is not the screens themselves that damage our biological clock, and therefore our sleep, but the short-wave blue light that they emit. Fortunately various applications are available that filter the problematic blue light on the spectrum and replace it with weak red light, thereby reducing the damage to the suppression of melatonin,” concludes Prof. Haim.


  10. Study suggests Pokémon Go may actually promote healthier lifestyle

    July 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Kent State University press release:

    Today marks the one year anniversary of Pokémon GO’s worldwide release that sent crowds hiking through parks, meandering into streets and walking for miles in search of Pokémon, those cute little digital characters that appear in real locations on your smartphone.

    Capturing the little monsters isn’t just fun for the players, it might be good for their health. Too often we sit at a desk all day, spend countless hours in the car, and with a smartphone glued to our hands it is too easy to spend our free time watching videos, playing games and browsing the internet. Such sedentary behaviors cause us to sit more and exercise less.

    However, Kent State University researchers found that playing a popular physically-interactive, smartphone based game, like Pokémon GO, may actually promote exercise.

    Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., from Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services assessed the ability of the popular, physically-interactive, smartphone based video game Pokémon GO to increase walking and decrease sedentary behavior, like sitting. Over 350 college students reported their physical activity and sedentary behavior the week before they downloaded Pokémon GO, the week immediately after downloading the game, and again several weeks later.

    Results show that, relative to the week before downloading Pokémon GO, students doubled their daily walking behavior (102 percent increase) and reduced sedentary behavior by 25 percent during the first week after downloading. When comparing behavior several weeks after downloading Pokémon GO, to the week before downloading, walking and sedentary behavior was still 68 percent greater and 18 percent lower, respectively, even though frequency of game play decreased by 58 percent.

    “While the largest increases in walking and decreases in sitting occurred during the first week after downloading, when the game was new to the user, those positive effects largely persisted weeks later,” Barkley said. “It is possible that games like Pokémon GO may help people initiate a positive health behavior change, such as more daily walking and less sitting.”

    The researchers suggest that while many smartphone functions may promote sedentary activity, they are hopeful that playing physically-interactive, smartphone based video games like Pokémon GO may help promote walking and reduce sitting in college students.

    The study is published in the Games for Health Journal.