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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 83-87

Smartphone usage among female students of a private dental institution in North Kerala: A Cross-Sectional Study

Department of Public Health Dentistry, Century International Institute of Dental Sciences, Poinachi, Kasaragod, Kerala, India

Date of Submission10-Jun-2019
Date of Acceptance03-Dec-2019
Date of Web Publication12-Feb-2020

Correspondence Address:
Kuldeep Singh Shekhawat
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Century International Institute of Dental Sciences, Poinachi, Kasaragod - 671 541, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdrr.jdrr_35_19

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Background: Smartphones are now a part of our lives. We are increasingly depending on smartphones for almost everything. This technological prodigy has started infiltrating every aspect in our day to day lives to alarming levels. Objective: To determine the pattern of usage of smartphones by female students of dental institution in North Kerala. Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted among 152 female students. A closed ended, self-administered questionnaire was used to assess the number of hours spent, reasons for using, most commonly accessed applications, pattern of usage in response to different situations encountered, and whether or not they experience anxiety if the phone is not in possession. In addition, background data such as age, gender, place of residence, and year of study were also elicited. Student's t-test and analysis of variance were used to compare mean hours spent with respect to place of residence and year of study. Results: Everyone possessed a smartphone and spent about 5.1 ± 4 h on its usage. Final years spent significantly more time on their smartphone (P = 0.03). Sixty six percent reportedly checked their smartphones even when there was no notification. About 52% resorted to “phubbing” to end a conversation. Almost 80% accessed their smartphones during stress and 61% stayed awake longer than usual to access smartphones. WhatsApp™ was the most commonly accessed application, and 59.8% used their smartphones for social networking. Conclusion: The variables used in the study indicate trends reflecting increased usage and dependence on smartphones. This is unhealthy and needs effective strategy to create awareness among the masses for a balanced use of smartphones.

Keywords: Addictive behavior, dental students, habits, smartphones, social networking

How to cite this article:
Talapady V, Shekhawat KS, Dinatius P, Thasneem C B, Ali S, Prasanna S, Salim A. Smartphone usage among female students of a private dental institution in North Kerala: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Dent Res Rev 2019;6:83-7

How to cite this URL:
Talapady V, Shekhawat KS, Dinatius P, Thasneem C B, Ali S, Prasanna S, Salim A. Smartphone usage among female students of a private dental institution in North Kerala: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Dent Res Rev [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 18];6:83-7. Available from: https://www.jdrr.org/text.asp?2019/6/4/83/278218

  Introduction Top

Smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary basic feature phone. Smartphone is everywhere and is being used by people for calls, entertainment, and other daily conveniences. Smartphones constitute about 39% of the mobile phone users in India[1] and are expected to cross 374 million users in 2019.[2] However, every technological invention has brought both comforts and problems.[3]

Irrespective of the vast benefits of owning and using smartphones, its drawbacks are evident on every aspect of our lives. Nowadays, people are spending more time using their smartphones which is both disruptive and distractive.[4] Usage of phones has its effects on tasks that are as simple as walking. It was found that users walking while using a phone were slower in walking, changed their directions frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge others.[5]

The usage of smartphones is more among students and younger adults. Its increased usage is also witnessed among medical and dental students.[6],[7] The information regarding the usage of smartphones among female dental students in the state of Kerala is limited and therefore was the main objective of the study.

  Methods Top

Study setting, design, and study participants

A cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted among female students of a private dental institution in North Kerala. Permission was obtained from the concerned authorities of institutional committees. The study was conducted in the month of January 2019. The study was conducted over a period of 2 days. All the female students and interns of the institution present on the days of study and providing informed consent were included in the present study. The nature of the study was explained to the subjects before they provided their consent. No incentives of any sort were provided to study participants. Anonymity and confidentiality of their responses were assured to everyone.

A closed ended self-administered questionnaire was used in the present study. Study participants were asked to provide their responses to number of hours spent on smartphones, their frequency of checking their smartphones, reasons for using smartphones, and most commonly used application on everyday basis. In addition, usage of smartphones in various situation encountered on a daily basis was also elicited. Sociodemographic details such as age, gender, place of residence, and year of study was recorded. The study participants were requested to fill the questionnaire in 5 min in front of the investigator. The questionnaire was not validated.

Incomplete questionnaires were excluded from analysis. The data was entered in Microsoft Excel spread sheet (Microsoft Inc., 2012) and was analyzed using statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) (SPSS ver. 16.0 Inc., IL, USA) for descriptive statistics. Mean values were analyzed using t-test and analysis of variance.

  Results Top

A total of 152 female students participated in the study. The mean age was 22.4 years. Final year students were more in proportion (40.7%) and about 90% of students were staying away from their home (hostels/private accommodation). Everyone was using smartphones and was active on social networking sites (SNS). On an average, each study participant spent about 5 h every day accessing their smartphones [Table 1]. Although statistically insignificant, those staying away from home spent more time on smartphones than those staying at home [Table 2]. In addition, final year BDS students spent significantly more time on their smartphone than students from 2nd years, 3rd years, and interns [Table 3].
Table 1: Distribution of study participants according to demographic variables

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Table 2: Mean number of hours spent on smartphone to access application according to place of current residence

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Table 3: Yearwise distribution of mean number of hours spent on smartphones to access applications

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About 35% of study participants used their smartphones for learning, 59.8% accessed applications on their smartphones exclusively for social networking (which includes following up an event, any particular person and trolling) and only 4.6% used these applications for academic related activities [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Reasons for using smartphones (other than calls and short messaging services)

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The most common application of a smartphone (irrespective of uses) accessed by study participants was WhatsApp™ – 47.3% (72/152) followed by Facebook – 23.02% (35/152), respectively [Figure 2]. About 37% of the candidates reportedly checked in their smartphone as soon they woke up in the morning. About 66% confirmed that they have the habit of checking their smartphones even when there was no notification on any of the applications and 51.9% have reportedly used a smartphone if they wanted to end an ongoing conversation with a friend/colleague/acquaintance. About 63% feel anxious in case they do not have smartphones and 87.5% preferred to use their smartphone to divert their thoughts/mind when under stress. Sixty-one percent stayed awake longer than their usual sleeping time every day to access any application for social networking on their smartphone [Table 4].
Figure 2: Most commonly accessed applications on smartphone (other than calls and short messaging services)

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Table 4: Response from study participants on usage of smartphones

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  Discussion Top

The present study was conducted to determine the usage of smartphones by female students of a dental college situated in North Kerala. The target population were female students since their proportion in the study setting was higher. It is also observed that usage of smartphone is more among females,[8] and globally, their enrollment in dentistry is more than males.[9] Everyone possessed a smartphone and reportedly accessed applications/features of smartphone meant for social networking. The average time spent on using smartphone was about 5.1 h/day. This was similar to a study conducted among medical university students in South India where majority spent about 4–6 h/day using their smartphones.[10] In addition, dental students from Saudi Arabia spent 3–4 h accessing popular SNSs.[11] Another study from India reported a majority of female students spending 1–2 h on accessing SNS irrespective of specialty.[12] Smartphones are providing students with opportunity of new ways to explore and more importantly different ways of acquiring knowledge in a relatively easier way. This may be indirectly resulting in more usage of smartphone. In the present study, it was observed that there was no significant difference between mean hours spent on smartphone with reference to place of residence. Staying away from home does gives a certain degree of freedom and autonomy to students; nevertheless, with phones being regarded as personal medium, there is increased dependency on the same irrespective of the place.

The study also highlighted final year students significantly spend more time on smartphones than their peers. This can be attributed to the work load that generally increases during final year and there is always a possibility that these students are more likely to be in contact with their family members seeking emotional support.[13] Whether final year students were utilizing their smartphones to access SNS for learning purpose was not determined in the present study. Perhaps, this hypothesis can be tested for its causality in further studies.

We are increasingly dependent on smartphones in our everyday lives. They are our one point access to all the information the world has to offer. In the present study, about 37% of participants reached out to their smartphones first thing in morning as soon as they woke up and almost 66% checked their smartphones often for newer notifications. A similar trend was observed in New Zealand where university students admitted to constantly check their smartphones with majority of them being female students.[14] With smartphones an integral part of our lives, their visual and acoustic signals alerting the owner of an incoming message and/or notification, act as “interrupters.” In addition, these intermittent reinforcement of interruptions facilitate the development of a “checking habit.”[15]

The present study highlighted an important finding that about 63% of study participants felt anxious or distressed when they do not have their smartphones with them. Similar finding was observed among female students of a private university from North India,[16] and from a cohort of students from medical university in South India where almost 60% had the same reaction.[10] Though smartphones are useful in many different ways and a wonderful platform for social interactions, surprisingly we observed that about 50% of students used smartphones as an excuse to end an ongoing conversation. This pattern of behavior more or less indicates towards a new problem called as “phubbing.” The term “Phubbing” has been defined in various ways as modern communication in which a person snubs another in a social setting by concentrating on their phone instead of having a conversation.[17] Since “phubbing” is believed to be due to smartphone and internet addiction,[18] there is a high possibility that participants in the present setting are addicted to smartphones and internet. This possibility has to be explored in further studies with correct methodology.

The present study also observed majority of participants using their smartphones whenever they are under stress. This phenomenon can be attributed to “automatic attention” of the participants, since research indicates that signals from one's own phone (but not someone else's) activate the same involuntary attention system that responds to the sound of one's own name.[19] In addition, smartphone notifications of a missed text message or call impairs performance on tasks requiring sustained attention which in the present case was being under stress.[20] Smartphones can also be a means to fulfill social and psychological needs as explained by uses and gratification theory (UGT). UGT explains that technology users are not the passive recipients of the media but are instead active agents seeking out media experiences that meet specific needs.[21] This means, consumers often seek gratifications from using smartphones by habitual use of media to pass the time; indirectly, intentionally seeking out the effects that followed from their own pattern of media consumption.

The present study also had 61% of participants who stayed awake beyond their sleeping time to access SNSs. These practices potentially affect students' academic performance and even moderate use doubles the risk of long-term tiredness.[22] Moreover, studies have reported that night time using of smartphones can result in difficulty in waking up, waking time tiredness, decline in study habits and grades, decrease in concentration, increased frequency of missed classes, and being late for classes.[23]

Majority of study participants used their smartphones for social networking which was consistent with other studies.[10] WhatsApp™ is an application that enables a user to send and receive messages, videos and audio files instantaneously.[24] Similarly, Facebook, Inc.(facebook.com) is a social media and networking company. The present study witnessed large proportion of participants accessing WhatsApp™ followed by Facebook. Similar results were observed among dental students of a university in Saudi Arabia.[11] On the contrary, Facebook followed by YouTube was the referred application among medical students at the University of Ottawa.[25]

  Conclusion Top

The findings from the present study indicate excessive usage of smartphones for various purposes. Although not the objective of the study, we did observe determinants that indicate an addiction to smartphones with a strong possibility of internet addiction. There is an urgent need to create awareness against this behavior that is all set to create another epidemic among other existing ones.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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