Featured Topic: Cell phone addiction


Featured Topic: Cell phone addiction

Sarah Krivan 


The ubiquity of portable technology has brought us unprecedented connectability and access to information resources while on the go. It’s also heralded an intrusive trend toward the expectation of constant availability via mobile devices, leading to an inability to unplug and spend time without them. One consequence of this trend is cell phone addiction, which involves “a dependence on excessive use of cell phones, a strong physiological experience, and behavioral discomfort” (Yang et al., 2023).

Given its increasing prevalence, SBP authors have examined many aspects of cell phone addition, including newer phenomena such as phubbing. Phubbing entails ignoring or snubbing your companions during in-person social interactions owing to preoccupation with your cell phone. Wu and Yang (2021) stated that phubbing has a negative impact on relationships with romantic partners, family members, and peers. They investigated the antecedents of this antisocial behavior in their study, finding that fear of missing out fully mediates the link between relative deprivation (i.e., feeling deprived of deserved outcomes as a result of interpersonal or intergroup comparisons) and phubbing.

Sense of deprivation was also the focus in the study by Hao et al. (2022), who reported that feelings of social exclusion and perception of belonging moderate the relationship between phubbing and mobile game addiction. Hao et al. also examined excessive use of mobile games as a consequence of habitual cell phone use. They noted that mobile games are typically free, making these more popular than the pay-to-play games available on devices like personal computers. Lack of financial constraint is likely to increase usage; therefore, there is a greater likelihood of developing an addiction to playing mobile games.

Another common type of application appearing on cell phones is social media forums. People who are addicted to social media experience finger compulsion, which means they constantly and instinctively reach for their phone regardless of the other activities they may be undertaking at the time (Yu & Zhang, 2023). The primary purpose of social media is to connect with other people, which helps to alleviate feelings of loneliness (Chen, 2021). However, overuse of social media to the exclusion of sustaining in-person connections, which is contributed to by actions such as finger compulsion and phubbing, may ultimately result in greater isolation and loneliness.

Alongside investigating the factors that contribute to cell phone addition, SBP authors have examined ways to mitigate its negative outcomes. Wang et al. (2021) observed that mindfulness and social adaptation are negatively associated with cell phone dependence. Further, Yang et al. (2023) found that self-control mediates the link between trait mindfulness and cell phone addiction. Mindfulness may be a ripe area for further research in addressing the impact of addiction to portable technology.

As an issue of topical interest, cell phone addiction and ways to mitigate its negative impact on our lives are sure to garner further research attention in the coming years. Interested in learning more? Our journal archive contains dozens of articles on this topic and related fields over our five decades of publication. Sign up for a personal subscription to SBP to gain access to over 4,050 papers spanning the fields of social, behavioral, and developmental psychology.


Trait mindfulness and cell phone addiction in adolescents: A moderated mediation model – Hongling Yang, Xin Huang, Xihe Zhao, and Aitao Lu, 51(2), Article e11984.

Relative deprivation and phubbing: Fear of missing out as a mediator – Yang Wu and Xiaoying Yang, 49(7), Article e10503.

Avatar identification mediates the relationship between peer phubbing and mobile game addiction – Lujie Hao, Qinghua Lv, Xiaosan Zhang, Qingquan Jiang, and Lin Ping, 48(10), Article e9384.

College students’ social media addiction and sleep problems: Chain mediating effects of fear of missing out and nocturnal social media use – Tingrong Yu and Gen Zhang, 51(6), Article 12176.

The effects of shyness and loneliness on cell phone dependence in college students – Yan Chen, 49(9), Article e10668.

Mindfulness and cell phone dependence: The mediating role of social adaptation – Weiling Wang, Yuyan Qian, Yuping Wang, and Yuhong Zhang, 49(10), Article e9363.