Several studies have shown that problematic smartphone use (PSU) is related to detrimental outcomes, such as worse psychological well-being, higher cognitive distraction, and poorer academic outcomes. In addition, many studies have shown that PSU is strongly related to social media use. Despite this, the relationships between PSU, as well as the frequency of social media use in lectures, and different approaches to learning have not been previously studied. In our study, we hypothesized that both PSU and the frequency of social media use in lectures are negatively correlated with a deep approach to learning (defined as learning for understanding) and positively correlated with a surface approach to learning (defined as superficial learning). The study participants were 415 Estonian university students aged 19–46 years (78.8% females; age M = 23.37, SD = 4.19); the effective sample comprised 405 participants aged 19–46 years (79.0% females; age M = 23.33, SD = 4.21). In addition to basic socio-demographics, participants were asked about the frequency of their social media use in lectures, and they filled out the Estonian Smartphone Addiction Proneness Scale and the Estonian Revised Study Process Questionnaire. Bivariate correlation analysis showed that PSU and the frequency of social media use in lectures were negatively correlated with a deep approach to learning and positively correlated with a surface approach to learning. Mediation analysis showed that social media use in lectures completely mediates the relationship between PSU and approaches to learning. These results indicate that the frequency of social media use in lectures might explain the relationships between poorer academic outcomes and PSU.
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