Rapid and continuing growth in the ownership of smartphones means they have now become a central gateway to online services and information. In Taiwan, approximately 73.4% of people own a smartphone, compared with 71.8% in Singapore, 70.4% in South Korea, 63.9% in the United States, and 43.8% in China [1
]. In terms of age, smartphone ownership is highest among younger adults aged 18–29 (85%) [1
]. The ownership of smartphones among teenagers has also surged. For instance, Adestra [2
] found that approximately 87% of teenagers aged 14–18 years have smartphones, compared with 92% of adults aged 19–34 years and 65% of adults aged 56–67 years. In Taiwan, smartphone ownership among adolescents (aged 12–17 years) ranges from 78.8% to 93.3% and is 48.7% among children (aged 6–11 years) [3
]. Although half (51.3%) of elementary school children do not own a smartphone, 38.8% of these children often use a family member’s smartphone. Among adolescents, smartphones are the most widely used computing devices (87%), followed by laptops (83%), tablets (51%), and desktop computers (43%) [2
]. Adolescents often used a smartphone after school (82%), during class recess (74%), while taking transportation (63%), while eating food (57%), and in class (16%) [4
Compared with adults, adolescents are more vulnerable to smartphone addiction because of the developmental stage of their brains and because they tend to have lower levels of self-control over their impulses to pursue pleasure [5
]. A 2015 study by the Taiwan Ministry of Education reported that the prevalence of smartphone addiction among adolescents in Taiwan ranges from 13.9% to 25.7% and is even more prevalent than Internet addiction (12.6–19.5%). Smartphone addiction is associated with health problems and negative social, psychological, and behavioral effects such as sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, low emotional intelligence, poor academic performance, risky behaviors (using a smartphone while driving or walking), and problematic behaviors [7
]. Adolescent smartphone addiction is therefore considered a serious problem that warrants prevention and intervention.
Aside from smartphone addiction, online safety is also a major parental worry as an increasing number of children and teenagers gain access to the Internet through smartphones and tablets [11
]. Among the common concerns that parents have about their children’s Internet and smartphone use are Internet and smartphone addiction, cyberbullying, online solicitation, sexting, cyberstalking, online friendships, online reputation, and privacy issues [12
]. Cyberbullying and sexting, for example, are associated with psychological and behavioral health problems among adolescents [14
] and have even been linked to suicide ideation and attempts [16
Erikson’s theory of stages of development suggests that adolescents and young adults (in the fidelity and love stage) are eager to establish friendships and intimate relationships online and to blend their identities with those of their friends; they are also concerned about how they appear to others [18
]. However, online environments may create a false sense of intimacy and intention. Cyber-stalkers may simulate ideal personas that lead adolescents to misjudge the intentions behind their messages; thereafter, cyber-stalkers may engage in obsessive relational intrusion which can be defined as “the repeated and unwanted pursuit of intimacy through violation of physical and/or symbolic privacy” [20
]. An adolescent’s stage of cognitive development and their lack of life experience, along with the anonymity of the online environment, leads to greater risk-taking behavior which puts them at risk and compromises their online safety. Given the potential risks of cybercrime and problematic Internet and smartphone use, it is essential for parents to manage, educate, and communicate with their adolescent children and guide their use of digital technology.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric disorder among adolescents with an Internet addiction [21
]. ADHD has been found to be associated with Internet addiction in both cross-sectional [22
] and longitudinal studies [23
]. The symptoms and characteristics of ADHD include a tendency to be bored, impaired inhibition, and low achievement, and it is associated with a higher risk of Internet addiction [24
] and higher levels of parent–child conflict [25
]. Parents should be able to educate their adolescent children and communicate with them about online behavior and safety, as well as executing plans to manage their adolescents’ Internet and smartphone use. Therefore, a reliable metric is needed to assess self-perceived parents’ self-efficacy regarding management of their ADHD adolescent children’s smartphone use. The Parental Smartphone Use Management Scale (PSUMS) was therefore developed and validated in this study. In sum, this study tends to understand parents’ self-efficacy and engagement in managing children’s smartphone use, explore the useful parenting strategies to prevent children’s smartphone addiction and victimization, and develops a reliable and valid scale.
In this study we developed and validated the PSUMS to measure parents’ perceived efficacy in managing the smartphone use of adolescents with ADHD. The final version of the 17-item PSUMS accounted for 78.58% of the total variance and contains three theoretically and statistically appropriate subscales: reactive management, proactive management, and monitoring. The three-factor hypothesis was supported by the scale’s psychometric properties, including its construct validity (confirmed using EFA and CFA), criterion-related validity (known-group validity and concurrent validity), and reliability (internal consistency measured using Cronbach’s alpha). The PSUMS adhered to psychometric standards and was shown to be a concise and promising measure of whether parents of adolescents with ADHD have the knowledge and skills required to successfully manage their children’s smartphone use.
The PSUMS consists of three scales. With a rating scale from 0 to 6, an increase in scores corresponds to an increase in parents’ efficacy in managing their children’s smartphone use. The three smartphone-management items parents feel most confident about were in the sub-dimension “reactive management”. These were: “I manage how and to what extent my child spends money on his/her smartphone”, “I don’t allow my child to use a smartphone while doing homework”, and “when my child is spending too much time on a smartphone, I stop his/her smartphone use effectively”. The two smartphone-management items they felt least confident about were in the sub-dimension “proactive management,” which involved positive communication and reasoning. These were: “I don’t get angry when I manage my child’s smartphone use”, and “I don’t distress my child when communicating with him/her about smartphone use”. Moreover, parents also produced low scores in regard to managing children’s smartphone use outside of the house.
In terms of criterion-related validity, the subscales of the PSUMS were significantly correlated in the expected direction with the PCPU-Q. The first subscale, reactive management, concerns parental intervention in adolescents’ smartphone overuse, money spending, cybercrime involvement, poor timing of use, and other smartphone behaviors that may negatively affect their daily lives. Adolescents whose parents use moderate behavioral control reported fewer problem behaviors [41
]. Similarly, parents who set rules on media time reported that their children (aged 0–6 years) watched less television on average than other children in their age group [43
]. As expected, reactive management was negatively correlated with smartphone addiction and functional impairments. Parents who scored lower on reactive management were more likely to have children with a smartphone addiction and functional impairments. The second subscale, proactive management, addresses parents’ positive communication, affection toward, and reasoning with adolescents about their smartphone use. Research has shown that adolescents who exhibit the symptoms and characteristics of ADHD are more likely than other children to experience relatively high levels of parent–child conflict [25
]. In our study, effective communication, high levels of affection, and reasoning around smartphone use behaviors with adolescents with ADHD was found to be a key element in the successful prevention of problematic smartphone use. Proactive management enables adolescents to discuss their feelings, negotiate rules, and communicate in a safe and caring environment. This type of parenting practice has been linked to prosocial behavior, less externalizing behavior, good mental health, and higher achievement [44
]. As expected, proactive management was negatively correlated with smartphone addiction and functional impairments. Finally, the third subscale, parental monitoring, was defined as “a set of correlated parenting behaviors involving attention to and tracking of the child’s whereabouts, activities, and adaptations” on their smartphone [48
]. Parental monitoring has been associated with lower levels of alcohol and substance use [49
]. Similarly, lower levels of parental monitoring have been found to correlate with a higher percentage of time spent on nonacademic computer use [51
]. In this study, parental monitoring was negatively associated with smartphone addiction and functional impairment. The PSUMS was significantly correlated in the expected direction with the PCPU-Q, which confirmed its concurrent validity.
The PSUMS conceptualized and measured parents’ self-efficacy regarding their management of the smartphone use of adolescents with ADHD. However, this research had some limitations that need to be addressed. The sample sizes used for EFA and CFA were relatively small (i.e., 103 for EFA and 108 for CFA, total of 211). However, we believed that our contribution adds on the current literature because it is hard to collect more than a hundred adolescents with diagnosed ADHD. Furthermore, studies have shown that our sample sizes were acceptable for both EFA and CFA. For EFA, a rule of thumb to calculate the sample size is using an item-participant ratio of 5 [52
]. Given that the original item number of the PSUMS is 20, 100 was a sufficient number for conducting EFA. Regarding CFA, although the consensus is that 200 is a preferable sample size, Iacobucci argue that sample size at 50 is sufficient [53
]. Anderson and Gerbing [54
] and Kline [55
] agree that using a sample size of 100 could be the minimum criterion for doing CFA. Therefore, we tentatively concluded that our sample sizes were acceptable in both EFA and CFA [56
]. Nevertheless, future studies are warranted to collect a larger sample size to corroborate our findings. Although construct validity, known-groups validity and concurrent validity were supported by the results, another limitation is that all subscales of PSUMS are significantly correlated with all subscales of PCPU-Q (the criterion scale), which indicated that subscales of PSUMS may not be distinguished. However, when performing the calculation for the test of the differences between two dependent correlations with one variable in common [57
], we found a significant difference between two correlations of PSUMS subscales (reactive management and monitoring) with one subscale of PCPU-Q (functional impairment) in common as criterion (z
= 2.49, p
< 0.01). This limitation maybe because of the nature of smartphone addiction (PCPU-Q) is related to parental smartphone use management (PSUMS), thus subscales of PSUMS cannot be fully distinguished. Future studies may use monitoring scales as criterion in testing discriminant validity in PSUMS. Despite these limitations, the overall results showed that the PSUMS has good reliability and adequate validity. The reliability and validity of the scale mean it can be used to test different samples. Furthermore, the PSUMS could also be used as a tool for developing smartphone-addiction prevention programs for adolescents.