This back-and-forth hasn’t stopped scaremongering comparisons between digital media and digital heroin, nor has it kept Silicon Valley parents from telling The New York Times that “the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”
The actual research hasn’t come to one neat conclusion, and that may be because the field has relied on self-reports.
It’s possible to measure how much time you spend on your phone; it’s just that most research — some 90 percent of it, estimates David Ellis, a lecturer in computational social science at Lancaster University — hasn’t.
People are notoriously unreliable reporters of their own behavior: people misremember, forget, or fudge their responses to make themselves look better.
The latest strike against self-reports was published last month on the preprint server PsyArXiv, first reported by New Scientist.
The study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, but it adds to a growing body of evidence that the foundation for smartphone scaremongering is shaky.