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Jisun Lim (Barun ICT Research Center, Yonsei Univ.)

Goonyong Park (Barun ICT Research Center, Yonsei Univ.)

Elementary, middle and high school students spend 36.2 hours on smartphones per week (elementary school students: 30.4 hours, middle and high school students: 38.6 hours); on average, five hours a day are spent using smartphones. This suggests that, outside of time designated to mandatory activities such as attending school classes and sleeping, students spend most of their time with their smartphones. The weekly average smartphone usage time for adults above the age of 18 is 23.5 hours, which is approximately 2/3 of the time spent by elementary, middle and high school students. The average smartphone usage time is 31.6 hours for people in their 30s, and 29.3 hours for those in their 40s, indicating that there is not a great difference in usage time between the child and parent generations.

[Figure 1] Weekly Average Smartphone Usage Time by Gender/Age Group

The most popular categories of applications among elementary school students are Entertainment (40.2%), which includes music and videos, and Games (28.7%), together making up 68.9% of total usage time. For middle and high school students, the bulk of usage time is spent on Entertainment (34.2%) and Games (17.9%), but there is a decrease in gaming time, and a noticeable increase in time spent using Social Media (15.6%), such as internet groups, blogs, and SNS. For adults, there is a reduction in usage time for each category compared to elementary, middle and high school students, and an even greater variety in usage patterns than middle and high school students.

[Figure 2] Smartphone Usage for Elementary, Middle and High School students, and Adults by App Category

20% of the heaviest student smartphone users – those who fall into the category of “excessive smartphone users” – spend approximately 1.5 times more hours on their smartphone than the other 80% of students, at 63.5 hours per week (elementary school students: 53.8 hours, middle school students: 66.2 hours). These students spend over 9 hours a day on their smartphones, which may be problematic, as this level of use can disrupt students’ daily activities, such as attending school and sleeping.

[Figure 3] Comparison of Smartphone Usage Patterns between the 20% of Heaviest Users and the Other 80%

However, among students categorized as excessive users, there was a smaller proportion of time devoted to gaming (elementary school students: 29%->25%, middle and high school students: 18%- >13.7%). Among the 20% of the heaviest smartphone users among adults, however, the proportion of time spent on gaming was noticeably higher (20%- >26.3%), indicating that there is a greater risk of smartphone addiction for adults compared to excessive users in elementary, middle or high school. These differences in usage patterns among students and adults should cause parents to reconsider their perceptions of their children’s smartphone use, because the standards for excessive smartphone use in parent generations differs from that of their children’s generations. Adults must also consider how excessive smartphone use in children may be a new lifestyle for children in a changing society. Excessive use certainly has negative effects, and parents should assign time limits to prevent children from disrupting their education, but it may benefit parents to evaluate their own smartphone usage before imposing restrictions on their children.

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