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Problematic smartphone use is an emerging public health problem since the launch of the first smartphone 10 years ago. In this article, pathways to problematic use of smartphones, approaches to deal with this issue and their limitations are discussed. This includes problematic use of smartphones by people who self-identify that they or their family members use mobile devices in a problematic way. Extreme problematic use (e.g. relating to online gambling or heavy gaming) that severely disrupts people's lives is a form of digital addiction is excluded from this discussion. Smartphone use can be problematic for some people due to the availability of constant connection, the addictiveness of applications (apps) combined with personal psychological factors. This is facilitated by characteristics of the technology, including easy access, the possibility of escaping daily life, being able to remain anonymous online, and the frequency of alerts and messages. While various non-technical interventions, such as digital detoxes, and digital interventions, including apps to limit use, have been developed to help people control their smartphone use, none of these has proven to work yet. An overview of currently available apps for problematic smartphone use is provided. Further work is needed on various aspects of problematic smartphone use, including the understanding of how smartphone use impacts on people's lives, strengthening the definition of problematic smartphone use, and validation of its measurement, and more rigorous development and assessment of tools. We hope that these efforts will help people to use their smartphones in a healthy and effective way.

Original publication




Journal article


Digit Health

Publication Date





Internet, Problematic smartphone use, addiction, digital interventions