• Laura Zimmermann


Can screen-time applications help to control smartphone usage? Maladaptive consumption in the form of smartphone overuse is a concern for many consumers. As a solution, screen-time applications were launched by the largest technology companies. This research predicts that, while improving screen-time knowledge, tracking apps are less likely to empower users to reduce actual usage. Study 1, a longitudinal field study (N=242), shows that screen-time tracking improves digital self-awareness but that it is less likely to lead to a reduction of mobile usage. The results also reveal a small negative association between smartphone usage and performance at university. Study 2, an online experiment (N=139), uncovers that consumers prefer informational tracking over more restrictive alternatives (blocking, digital nudges), despite evaluating it as less effective for reducing screen time—especially those highest in smartphone dependence. These findings suggest that many people want to monitor their smartphone usage but not necessarily control it.


The SELF Institute