Social implications of children’s smartphone addiction: The role of support networks and social engagement (2018)

J Behav Addict. 2018 Jun 5:1-9. doi: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.48.

Ihm J1.


Background and aims

Most studies have regarded smartphone addiction as a condition stemming from individuals’ psychological issues, so research has rarely examined it in relation to a lack of social resources and its social impacts. However, this study reinterprets smartphone addiction as a social problem stemming from a lack of offline social networks and resulting in a decline of social engagement.


This study drew on a survey of 2,000 children in Korea consisting of 991 males and 1,009 females with an average age of 12 years old. Using the STATA 14 structural equation modeling program, this study examined the relationships between children’s lack of social networks, smartphone addiction, and social engagement.


Social network variables, such as formal organizational membership, quality of relationship with parents, size of the peer group, and peer support, decrease smartphone addiction. Simply having good relationships and reciprocal feelings with peers do not have any influence on the smartphone addiction. The more the children become addicted to smartphones, the less they participate in social engagement.

Discussion and conclusions

This study provides a new understanding of smartphone addiction by focusing on its social aspects, augmenting prior studies that have addressed psychological factors. Findings suggest that children’s lack of social networks may inhibit comfortable social interactions and feelings of support in the offline environment, which can heighten their desire to escape to smartphones. These children, unlike non-addicts, may not take advantage of the media to enrich their social lives and increase their level of social engagement.

KEYWORDS: smartphone addiction; social engagement; social networks; support networks

PMID: 29865865

DOI: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.48