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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Gaming applications have become one of the main entertainment features on smartphones, and this could be potentially problematic in terms of dangerous, prohibited, and dependent use among a minority of individuals. A cross-national study was conducted in Belgium and Finland.

The aim was to examine the relationship between gaming on smartphones and self-perceived problematic smartphone use via an online survey to ascertain potential predictors. Good validity and adequate reliability were confirmed regarding the PMPUQ-SV, especially the dependence subscale, but low prevalence rates were reported in both countries using the scale.

Regression analysis showed that downloading, using Facebook , and being stressed contributed to problematic smartphone use. Anxiety emerged as predictor for dependence. Mobile games were used by one-third of the respective populations, but their use did not predict problematic smartphone use. Very few cross-cultural differences were found in relation to gaming through smartphones. Findings suggest mobile gaming does not appear to be problematic in Belgium and Finland. Interacting with mobile devices e. Given rapid developments in mobile technology, smartphone gaming requires an in-depth exploration to ascertain factors that may contribute to problematic use.

Mobile games are video games played online via a mobile device, and are particularly popular when downloaded for free e. Moreover, the social elements of most mobile games are major features in current digital gaming because social networking sites SNSs are successfully integrated and used across many gaming platforms. Some studies have focused on gaming through smartphones, especially in Asia Lee, ; Su et al.

According to a Deloitte report, mobile games represent one of the fastest growing sectors of the mobile application industry in Europe. Similarly, a study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association ESA, stated gaming has partly shifted from being console and PC-based to being multiplatform and cross-platform i. This study uses data from the Tech Use Disorders TUD, project, a prospective study involving a panel of European adults followed since exploring problematic mobile phone use PMPU in Belgian and Finnish smartphone users, because these two countries had not been studied before in such a context Deloitte, , despite having a couple of the highest prevalence rates in mobile phone technology usage International Telecommunication Union [ITU], Belgium and Finland do not differ in mobile phone use.

In , Finland had In addition, Belgian respondents reported playing different types of games e. First, related to users, specific psychological traits e. Structural characteristics, e. Furthermore, smartphone content i. Therefore, both internal and external factors appear to be associated with problematic smartphone use. To date, most studies in this area have assessed problematic smartphone use in adolescents rather than adults.

However, problematic smartphone use among adults can include a wider range of activities that can be interfered with e. Consequently, further research is needed to study the effects of problematic smartphone uses by adults, such as gaming through smartphones. Currently, PMPU has been theoretically defined as a heterogenic potential behavioral disorder associated with a of different problems, such as dangerous use i.

A study by Roberts, Yaya, and Manolis surveyed a convenience sample of North American undergraduates to investigate which mobile phone activities e. Another study highlighted that high engagement across a wide range of video game genres e. Game genres, such as the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games MMORPGs , are potentially considered more addictive than other gaming genres e.

Therefore, the evidence regarding the addictive potential of smartphone gaming is currently scarce among adult populations in Western cultures, and no scale assesses this type of content, and therefore further studies are required. Anxiety can be triggered gradually in heavy users when their smartphones are unavailable i.

However, a recent study observed while depression and anxiety initially positively correlated with addictive technology use proneness, depression positively and anxiety negatively predicted addictive video game playing Andreassen et al. Regarding stress, problematic online gaming can be conceptualized as a response to preexisting life stress in the framework of the stress-coping theory Snodgrass et al.

However, very few studies exist that assess the relationships between stress and anxiety in smartphone gaming, a gap in knowledge that this study aims to fill. From a psychosociocultural perspective, few studies have assessed smartphone gaming factors and those that have were conducted in Asia.

The Indian study found several motivations for using mobile games, including convenience, fun, escapism, easy use, visual appeal, and perceived influence of being a positive tool e. One of the South Korean studies Jin et al. Finally, Liu and Li reported context was the strongest predictor in mobile game adoption e. There are a of reasons for carrying out this study.

First, there is little empirically known regarding potentially problematic smartphone gaming, especially in adulthood. Second, PMPU has almost exclusively been studied in relation to addictive use only rather than considering other potential problems, such as dangerous or prohibited use. To remedy this, this study investigates the multidimensional construct of PMPU across the three problematic smartphone uses. Therefore, this study aims to explore this phenomenon in two European countries to assess smartphone gaming patterns, potential problems, and associated factors.

Consequently, the objectives of this cross-national study were twofold. First, to investigate the extent to which Belgian and Finnish adults use mobile games, and second, to identify whether this is associated with problematic use namely dangerous, prohibited, and dependent use , and to identify psychological predictors namely depression, anxiety, and stress and gaming patterns associated with problematic smartphone use.

The online survey was developed using Qualtrics and comprised: a sociodemographics, b smartphone use patterns e. Sociodemographics examined gender, age, relationship status [i. This assesses forbidden, dangerous, and self-perceived smartphone dependence, and was adapted to Finnish from French using the translation—back translation method Brislin, The three subscales are: dependent use, e.

The three subscales are: depression assessing dysphoria, hopelessness, or anhedonia; e. Total scores range between 0 and 21 per subscale, with higher scores representing increased presence of these constructs. The invitation to participate used three recruitment strategies: a inviting undergraduates during the Spring semester at both universities; inviting participants via b electronic invitations in academic online environments e. Finally, a set of multiple linear regressions with an entry method i. SPSS 21 software was used.

All participants were informed about the study and all provided informed consent. Users from both countries were quite similar, as can be seen in Table 1. Regarding gaming, Belgian and Finnish smartphone users were not prone to smartphone gaming, as the majority had not played any mobile game. However, when they played mobile games, they played quite often. More specifically, one-third of the Belgians and Finnish had played Table 1 , although only a few were categorized as versatile mobile gamers. The mobile game genres played were casual games, followed by strategy and solo mobile games Table 2.

also showed using Facebook and downloading apps were prevalent activities indirectly related to smartphone gaming. However, similar to smartphone gaming patterns described in Table 1 , there were no ificant differences between countries in smartphone gaming activities [e. The analysis was carried out merging both samples to observe potential internal and external predictors of problematic smartphone use.

Specifically, the sums of the squared loadings were 4. Sociodemographics were associated with problematic smartphone use. The other sociodemographic variables did not ificantly predict PMPU. A multiple linear regression was computed using the whole sample rather than the respective subsamples per country , as most variables related to gaming behavior were similar across countries, with the PMPUQ-SV as outcome variable and these predictors: patterns of smartphone use regarding gaming [i.

The rationale behind the selected factors is that these were the more common variables related to smartphone gaming in the TUD project that showed in the descriptive analysis that Belgian and Finnish smartphone users usually associated with. showed the variance inflation factor VIF and tolerance index supported the absence of multicollinearity i.

However, dimensions of PMPU slightly changed the predictors when computing a regression per subscale. Despite the increased popularity of mobile phones and smartphone gaming, gaps in current knowledge were identified. It also adds to the current knowledge base by investigating potentially problematic smartphone gaming from a cross-national perspective. Smartphones have features and apps that facilitate habitual usage with many benefits i.

The online-enabled features allow users to download and play games and interact with others anywhere at any time. In the present European sample, respondents were smartphone users regularly engaged in online activities i. Mobile games were used by one-third of the respective populations, as stated by Deloitte for Finnish individuals and the ISFE a for Belgians.

The present findings suggest smartphone gaming, specifically casual gaming, is one of the main activities engaged in in these two countries, but it is not the most popular activity because social networking i. The findings showed that the favorite type of gaming on smartphones was playing casual games rather than MMORPGs, which are considered more addictive games on PCs and consoles Kuss, ; Kuss et al. These are in line with ESA findings , indicating social games, puzzle games, action, and strategy games are the most commonly played mobile games.

As Engl and Nacke suggested, mobile game players may engage in these activities for instant entertainment and to fill time between daily activities e. According to Jin et al. This has generated an increasing production of casual games, similar to puzzle games, which are characterized as a leisure activity that requires sporadic attention of up to 5 min.

The PMPUQ-SV demonstrated that it had a three-factor structure in both languages and an adequate reliability, as has been shown in literature Billieux et al. However, this study demonstrated higher problem and dependence scores, which were positively correlated with time spent on leisure mobile activities.

On the one hand, these associations provide evidence for construct validity and the relationship between time and dependent smartphone use Bae, However, as a of studies make clear, time spent using these devices and engaging in online activities excessively is not always associated with addictive use Griffiths, Furthermore, Rosen, Whaling, Carrier, Cheever, and Rokkum noted at least two issues when discussing time perception and problematic technology uses.

First, the assessment of time spent using the technology has been proven to be problematic e. Moreover, while females scored ificantly higher on dependence, concurring with the findings of Roberts et al. With respect to age and time, both were only weakly associated with slight problems and not related to dependency. Overall, the showed that the potential predictors of problematic smartphone use were downloading apps, using Facebook , and being stressed.

Dependence was predicted by low anxiety, and prohibited use was a problem in the Belgian sample. Evidence from research indicated that social networking is associated with addictive mobile behaviors e. Furthermore, some SNSs e. Furthermore, Jeong et al. Another explanation may be the social element to downloading apps e.

Consequently, the present findings did not show that problematic gaming was present in the samples studied, in addition to gaming predictors not explaining PMPU. This is contrary to findings from Asiatic research studies carried out among adolescent populations Jeong et al. It may be that the phenomenon of smartphone gaming is more prevalent in Eastern cultures compared with Western cultures, although comparability is unclear as methods, populations, and other contextual characteristics e.

The regarding the mental health predictors were partially in line with Andreassen et al. Moreover, stress positively predicted problematic smartphone use and dependence which had not been studied ly. Regarding depression, Andreassen et al. Concerning stress, an alternative explanation is required when using smartphone apps, such as games and SNSs, leading to more stress and increased self-perceived problematic smartphone use. However, Lee et al. Finally, regarding anxiety, the relationship was indirect, because anxious adult smartphone users perceive themselves to be less dependent on smartphone use, possibly due to smartphone use providing a feeling of relief, especially from social anxiety, which usually emerges when encountering strangers in public settings Hoffner et al.

In other words, anxiety decreases when using smartphones. This suggests smartphone gaming is different from online gaming. As Jin et al. The psychosocial impact of mobile games may be different in comparison with non-mobile games, as are the behaviors engaged in and the online apps used across platforms, and the contexts of use e. This could also have implications in relation to research related to IGD, because online gaming studies are usually based on gaming via consoles and PCs rather than gaming via smartphones. Furthermore, no game variables i.

This study also explored gaming regarding smartphone use and problematic smartphone uses in two European countries. In this study, being Belgian predicted prohibited smartphone use, and although the literature is scarce regarding this technological use aspect across European cultures e. One reason for this could be that younger age is related to higher smartphone use when prohibited, and in this study, the Belgian participants were younger than the Finnish participants Table 1. According to Srivastava , students and young adults appear to be the most avid users of mobile phones with little distinction between public and the private spheres e.

However, there is not enough literature yet to ascertain why these few cross-cultural differences appeared in relation to prohibited use, and this could be due to different age groups instead of different cultures.

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