Promoting Digital Wellness: Investigating the effects of a context-aware adaptive mobile-app intervention on students with problematic smartphone use through a randomized controlled design

Project: Research project

Project Details


With the rapid advancement in ubiquitous computing, mobile technologies such as smartphone has become an indispensable tool that penetrates deep into various aspects of our everyday life. As revealed in some studies, smartphone users can develop strong attachment to their device to an extent that they perceive smartphones as a part of their extended selves. It is likely that smartphone dependence will continue to exacerbate as smartphones are becoming increasingly appealing and versatile. In fact, excessive or problematic smartphone use (PSU) has been identified as emerging public health issues, posing new challenges to people’s mental health. Nonetheless, owing to embarrassment, social undesirability and privacy, some help-seekers are reluctant to seek help as reflected by the consistently low help-seeking rates for face-to-face pathological behavior treatments found across many countries.

As such, digital interventions are seen as plausible solutions for circumventing the hurdles that might deter individuals from seeking face-to-face treatments. Recently, there has been a proliferation of mobile health apps, yet research on the efficacy and effectiveness of digital interventions for PSU is scarce. Despite the potential of the digital approaches to PSU, there remain issues concerning their empirical evidence, design and implementation to be tackled. These include (1) lacking empirical studies on mobile health interventions, (2) lacking evidence-based mobile interventions for PSU, (3) lacking adaptability in most of the mobile-app interventions to address the diverse needs of students with PSU, (4) lacking knowledge about the relationship between self-reported PSU and the actual patterns of smartphone use, and (5) lacking knowledge about the processes of behavioural change in PSU. To address the research gaps and methodological challenges mentioned in the previous section, we attempt to develop a novel mobile context-aware adaptive intervention for students with problematic smartphone use to regulate their usage and behaviours, and examine the effects of the mobile-app intervention implementation on students with PSU through a randomized controlled study.

This study contributes to the research community and the general public in several ways. Firstly, the empirical analysis of smartphone usage patterns will deepen our understanding of the change processes of students’ smartphone behaviours during intervention. This will lead to developing more effective interventions and support for students’ with PSU. Secondly, the context-aware adaptive mobile-app intervention developed in this study with will provide a guiding framework for developing adaptive interventions for other problematic behaviours.
Effective start/end date1/01/2230/09/24

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


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