Smartphone Habits Are Changing, and Devs Must Adjust

In the wake of Facebook’s various scandals and the growing sentiment that we should all limit our screen time, new Pew Research data shows teens and young adults are responding. Should we be concerned about changing smartphone habits?

Some 54 percent of teens say they spend too much time on their phone, with 36 percent of parents with kids age 13-17 saying they, too, spend far too much time staring at the small screen. The trend continues with 44 percent of teens saying they check their phones as soon as they wake; 26 percent of parents do the same.

Conversely, only 14 percent of teens feel their smartphone use distracts them, and 37 percent say it “sometimes” distracts them. A separate study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows there’s a link between smartphone use and ADHD symptoms for teens, which asked similar questions about distractions and smartphones. Though an author of that study says it’s “not a doomsday scenario,” it is cause for concern. To that, 8 percent of teens in Pew’s research say they routinely lose focus in class because of their smartphone (23 percent say they “sometimes” lose focus).

Around 52 percent of teens in Pew’s study say they’re cutting back on how much time they spend on their phones. And 57 percent say they’re using social media less, and 58 percent are spending less time playing games.

It’s an interesting trend. Teens feel they’re using their devices too much, and parents agree. A smaller percentage of teens also think their parents are using smartphones too much. Both camps have resolved to change their habits.

This presents an opportunity for tech pros. If we read between the lines, what parents and teens are saying is they feel the way they use smartphones is unhealthy; constant scrolling through Instagram and playing Fortnight leads nowhere. In a sense, Pew’s data tells us developers have to be smarter about what type of apps and services they build. Users are looking for more purpose from their devices, and they’re spending less time engaged with apps. Construct your software accordingly.

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