PLoS One. 2023 Jan 25;18(1):e0280724. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280724. eCollection 2023.
BACKGROUND: Smartphone and social media use are supposed to be integral parts of university students’ daily lives. More specifically, smartphones and social media are frequently used for communication in daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, uninterrupted and persistent use of these technologies may lead to several psychological problems. Even though smartphones and social media were used more frequently during the pandemic, there is no evidence suggesting that the studies were not undertaken in low-income countries, including Ethiopia. Therefore, the current study aimed to assess problematic smartphone use and social media use among undergraduate university students in southern Ethiopia.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was carried out among 1,232 university students using a simple random sampling technique. The Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale and Smartphone Application-Based Addiction Scale were used to collect data on social media and smartphone use, respectively. The Beck Depression Inventory, Generalized Anxiety Assessment Tool, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index were standardized tools used to measure other independent variables. To identify factors, simple and multiple linear regression analyses were performed. A p-value of 0.05 was used to determine statistical significance.
RESULTS: The overall response rate was 95%. The mean scores for problematic smartphone and problematic social media use were 17 ± 3.3/36 and 12.7 ± 2.2/30, respectively. A linear regression model revealed that being female, first-year students and poor sleep quality were significantly associated with problematic smartphone use. Factors associated with problematic social media use (PSMU) were depression, substance use, and urban residence.
CONCLUSIONS: This study identified significant problems with smartphone and social media use among university students. Therefore, it is preferable to provide psychological counselling, educate students about safe, beneficial, and healthy internet use, and focus on recognized high-risk groups in order to give them special attention. It is also preferable to seek counselling about substance use. It is preferable to regularly screen and treat individuals with psychological problems in collaboration with stakeholders.