Left to Their Own Devices? A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Impacts of Smartphone Use on Children’s Outdoor Experiences
2. Materials and Methods
2.3. Data Analysis
3.1. How Dependent Are Children on Their Smartphones?
Girl: My smartphone is really important, you know. It’s my life!Boy: I agree, it’s also really important to me … mostly because of keeping up with my social media and being able to be in contact with the world …[8th grade children]
Interviewer: So, it’s not like if you’ve forgotten it [the smartphone] at home, you’re going to be like, oh no!Girl: It’s not a problem. I’ll still get through the day … I usually just use it if I’m bored or something, or to call someone.Boy: I agree, I wouldn’t panic … I mostly use it for social media and sometimes to play games if I’m bored.[5th grade children]
3.2. What Smartphone Functions Do Children Use in Their Outdoor Lives?
Boy: I don’t listen to music much when I’m inside the house.Girl: No, me neither … it’s more fun to listen to music outdoors, when you can watch the surroundings and walk around instead of just sitting inside, staring into the wall and listening to music …Interviewer: Would you also go for a walk without listening to music?Girl: No. That would be boring.[5th grade children]
Girl: Well, I’d like to bring my phone to school so I can call people if plans change after school … call my mom or something …Boy: Yeah, if you don’t want to go straight home after school … Or if your bike has a flat tire …Girl: I got my phone from my parents mostly because I should be able to call my mom …Boy: Me too, so you can get a hold of people … of my parents, if I need them … also, they are able get a hold of me[6th grade children]
Boy: Sometimes when I’m walking my dog, I use my phone.Girl: Right, me to … then you can just check Instagram and Snapchat and see if you’ve gotten any messages.Boy: Exactly …Interviewer: So, it’s something that you just do all the time?Girl: Yes, it’s actually all the time … I mostly listen to music when I’m walking alone outside, but if I get a message from a friend, I can just answer it and keep in touch like that. No matter where I am …[8th grade child]
Girl: If you’re outside … walking or whatever … and you get bored, you just Snap [use the application Snapchat] while you’re doing it.Boy: Right, so you can stay in touch or include your friends when they can’t be there, and then catch up later[6th grade child]
3.3. How Do Smartphones Affect Children’s Outdoor Experiences?
Girl: I horseback ride a lot, and my parents said that I can’t go alone unless I have my smartphone with me and are able to call them … So, I’m a little anxious if I don’t have it [the smartphone] with me out there, in case something happens … because I’ve tried that before, where something happened, and then it’s nice that you can call someone …Boy: Yeah, I know what you mean, if you are somewhere, like outside, then it is great to have your smartphone on you, because then you can write your parents … You can get in touch with someone if there’s an emergency.[7th grade children]
Boy: When I ride my bike to school it can get very boring … It’s also dark now [in the winter season] … There isn’t really anything you can look at, there isn’t really anything going on, so I listen to some music … Just to make things a bit nicer.[5th grade child]
Interviewer: Are there any specific places outside where you use your phone?Boy1: Sitting at a train station … definitely …Boy2: Yeah, or sometimes when I go to school, I am listening to music.Boy1: Or when you’re going up near the after-school classes, you’re looking down into your phone a lot!Boy2: I agree, it’s not a very exciting setting up there.Boy1: No, it’s just huge gray buildings.[7th grade children]
4.1. Smartphones Increase a Sense of Security When Outdoors
4.2. Smartphones Empower Children to Socialize Outdoors
4.3. Smartphones Empower Children to Mold Outdoor Experiences
4.4. Strengths and Limitations
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Appendix A. Interview Guide and Procedure
Appendix A.1. Information
Appendix A.2. Experiences in Relation to Smartphone Use (Introduction)
- If not, do you have free access to one, for example through your parents?
- Is it both important at school and in leisure time?
- Is it both important when indoor and outdoor?
- Can you give some examples [e.g. to call, write, social, play or find your way]?
- Is there a difference in use on weekdays and in the weekend?
Appendix A.3. Experiences in Relation to Being Outdoors
- Why is it (not) important to you?
- Is there a difference in time outdoor in the summer and the winter seasons?
- Is there a difference between weekdays and weekends?
- Is there a difference between the summer and the winter season?
Appendix A.4. Experience in Relation to Smartphone Use Outdoor
- Are these the same things as when you’re indoor?
- Does having your phone make it a better or a worse experience to be outdoor?
- Or are you hiding it away, so it doesn’t disturb you when you’re outdoor?
- Can your Smartphone motivate you to go/stay outdoors?
- Is it something where you think it improves your outdoor experience?
- Do you discover things you wouldn’t have discovered?
- Are you being less aware of what’s going on around you when you use your phone outdoor?
- Do you use your phones in all weathers?
- Are things like coverage [network] something you experience as a problem?
Appendix A.5. Reflection on Smartphones as Instrumental in being More Outdoors (Round-off)
- Can you give an example of how this could be connected?
Appendix B. Declaration of Consent
Appendix B.1. Information about your child’s participation in interviews:
|Jonas Vestergaard Nielsen|
|Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics|
|Tlf.: 65 50 76 99|
|Mail: [email protected]|
|University of Southern Denmark|
|5230 Odense M|
Appendix B.2. Declaration of Consent
In relation to the above, I am hereby informed and agree:“Natural Engineering – Development of children’s use of mobile technology in nature"
- That the investigation is voluntary and that I or my child may withdraw consent at any time and withdraw from the investigation
- That the interview is recorded, but that all material is handled as sensitive data
- The data will only be used and processed in the context of research
- My child’s name will be anonymized and will not appear
- That my child’s statements can be used as and have an impact on the research results
- That the results of the project will be published and thus made publicly available
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|Gender||Boys||576 (50%)||14 (41%)|
|Girls||572 (50%)||20 (59%)|
|Grade||5th grade||329 (29%)||9 (26%)|
|6th grade||330 (29%)||9 (26%)|
|7th grade||260 (23%)||8 (24%)|
|8th grade||229 (20%)||8 (24%)|
(in 1000 DKK) a
|Under average (<250)||389 (34%)||12 (34%)|
|Average (250–350)||662 (58%)||23 (66%)|
|Above average (>350)||67 (6%)||-|
|Building density b||Urban||743 (65%)||12 (33%)|
|Suburban||146 (13%)||11 (32%)|
|Rural||259 (23%)||11 (32%)|
|Smartphone relationship||Owns a smartphone||1136 (99%)||34 (100%)|
|Always have my smartphone |
|72%||71%||74%||56% *||71% *||83% *||80% *|
|Always have my smartphone |
with me when outdoors
|63%||61%||65%||46% *||63% *||70% *||77% *|
|Smartphone Functions Used Outdoor||Total||Gender||Grade|
|Listening to music||66%||61% **||69% **||56% **||64% **||66% **||80% **|
|Being in contact with parents||62%||60%||64%||65%||63%||59%||62%|
|Being in contact with friends||57%||57%||56%||44% **||59% **||62% **||64% **|
|Taking pictures or video||53%||41% **||65% **||48%||57% *||54%||56%|
|Using social media||47%||44%||49%||27% **||45% **||56% **||64% **|
|Use as a clock or alarm||43%||41%||44%||35% *||46% *||45% *||46% *|
|Help finding the way||26%||25%||27%||14% **||23% **||34% **||36% **|
|Watch videos||18%||21% **||14% **||15%||16%||17%||20%|
|Playing games||17%||22% **||12% **||15%||18%||18%||14%|
|Finding information||17%||20%||15%||13% **||16% **||17% **||25% **|
|Tracking physical activity and exercise||13%||11%||14%||11%||12%||13%||15%|
|Using My Smartphone Outdoor Resulted in Me Feeling:||Total||Gender||Grade|
|Safer||41%||36% **||42% **||40%||47%||37%||40%|
|More entertained||31%||36% **||25% **||28%||30%||33%||35%|
|More flexible and able to act on my own initiative||26%||30% **||20% **||18% **||29% **||31% **||26% **|
|Using my smartphone has not affected my outdoor experience||23%||25%||20%||18% **||22% **||21% **||33% **|
|Less observant of my surroundings||18%||15% *||19% *||15% *||14% *||21% *||23% *|
|Less in contact with the people I am with||15%||12% *||17% *||13%||12%||17%||20%|
|More educated||13%||17% **||9% **||10%||14%||16% *||13%|
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Nielsen, J.V.; Arvidsen, J. Left to Their Own Devices? A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Impacts of Smartphone Use on Children’s Outdoor Experiences. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3115. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063115
Nielsen JV, Arvidsen J. Left to Their Own Devices? A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Impacts of Smartphone Use on Children’s Outdoor Experiences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(6):3115. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063115Chicago/Turabian Style
Nielsen, Jonas Vestergaard, and Jan Arvidsen. 2021. "Left to Their Own Devices? A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Impacts of Smartphone Use on Children’s Outdoor Experiences" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 6: 3115. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063115