Revista Adolescência e Saúde

Revista Oficial do Núcleo de Estudos da Saúde do Adolescente / UERJ

NESA Publicação oficial
ISSN: 2177-5281 (Online)

Vol. 14 nº 3 - Jul/Sep - 2017

Original Article Imprimir 

Páginas 77 a 82

Teens and technology abuse: an indicative of behavioral problems?

Adolescentes y abuso de tecnologías: ¿un indicativo de problemas comportamentales?

Adolescentes e abuso de tecnologias: um indicativo de problemas comportamentais?

Autores: Rafaela Almeida Silva1; Paloma Maranhão Ferreira Silva2; Jéssica Ferreira de Moura Pereira3; Diana Carla Dias dos Santos4; Jakelline Cipriano dos Santos Raposo5; Betânia da Mata Ribeiro Gomes6

1. Degree in Nursing, Nossa Senhora das Graças Nursing School, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
2. Degree in Nursing, Nossa Senhora das Graças Nursing School, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
3. Graduand in Nursing, Nossa Senhora das Graças Nursing School, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
4. Graduand in Nursing, Nossa Senhora das Graças Nursing School, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
5. Master's Degree in Adolescent Medicine, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil. Administrative Expert in Education, Alagoas Federal Education, Science and Technology Institute, Rio Largo Campus. Rio Largo, Alagoas State, Brazil
6. PhD in Sciences, São Paulo University (USP). São Paulo, São Paulo State, Brazil. Adjunct Professor, Nossa Senhora das Graças Nursing School, Pernambuco University (UPE). Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil

Jakelline Cipriano dos Santos Raposo
Loteamento Terra de Antares I, Quadra 12, Lote 16, Antares
Maceió, AL, Brasil. CEP: 57048-275

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How to cite this article

Keywords: Technological development, internet, adolescent, mental disorders.
Palabra Clave: Desarrollo tecnológico, internet, adolescente, trastornos mentales.
Descritores: Desenvolvimento tecnológico, internet, adolescente, transtornos mentais.

OBJECTIVE: Verify the time of use of technological devices by adolescents and the association with warning signs for behavioral problems.
METHODS: Was adopt the delineation of a cross-sectional study, of exploratory nature. The nonprobabilistic sample consisted of students from both sexes, registered in a public school of Recife Metropolitan region. The data were collected through a questionnaire oriented by questions elaborated based on the model proposed by Hughes-Hassell and August (2006).
RESULTS: The analysis showed that most teenagers have access to the internet (99.6%), using it daily (88.7%) and for more than 10 hours per day (59.4%). There was a prevalence use of smartphone (65,4%). It was noticed that there's a negative feeling (anxiety, anger, apprehension, boredom and lack of concentration) when teenagers are prohibited to use (66.8%) or have to stay away from the technological device for a while (66.8%). The teenagers also reported feeling dependent of these technologies (62.9%).
CONCLUSION: In this research, adolescents use the technological devices in an excessive way, reporting behavioral problems related to the feeling of dependency and aggression, especially in those whose operation time was higher than 10 hours a day.

OBJETIVO: Verificar el tiempo de uso de aparatos tecnológicos por los adolescentes y su asociación con posibles señales de alerta para problemas comportamentales.
MÉTODOS: Fue adoptado el delineamiento de un estudio transversal, de carácter exploratorio. La muestra no probabilística fue constituida por estudiantes de ambos sexos, matriculados en una escuela de la red pública estadual de la Región Metropolitana de Recife. Los datos fueron recolectados a través de un cuestionario orientado por preguntas construidas con base en el modelo propuesto por Hughes-Hasell y Agosto (2006).
RESULTADOS: Los análisis demostraron que la mayoría de los adolescentes tiene acceso a internet (99,6%), utilizándola diariamente (88,7%) y por más de 10 horas por día (59,4%). Hubo un predominio del uso del Smartphone (65,4%). Fue observado que hay un sentimiento negativo (ansiedad, irritación, aprehensión, tedio y falta de concentración) cuando los adolescentes son prohibidos de usar (66,8%) o quedan lejos del aparato por algún tiempo (66,8%). Los adolescentes también relataron sentirse dependientes (62,9%) de esas tecnologías.
CONCLUSIÓN: Los adolescentes de esa pesquisa utilizan los aparatos tecnológicos de forma excesiva, relatando problemas comportamentales relacionados al sentimiento de dependencia del aparato y agresividad, principalmente entre aquellos con tiempo de uso superior a 10 horas por día.

OBJETIVO: Verificar o tempo de uso de aparelhos tecnológicos pelos adolescentes e sua associação com possíveis sinais de alerta para problemas comportamentais.
MÉTODOS: Foi adotado o delineamento de um estudo transversal, de caráter exploratório. A amostra não probabilística foi constituída por estudantes de ambos os sexos, matriculados em uma escola da rede pública estadual, da Região Metropolitana do Recife. Os dados foram coletados através de um questionário orientado por questões construídas com base no modelo proposto por Hughes-Hassell e Agosto (2006).
RESULTADOS: As análises demonstraram que a maioria dos adolescentes tem acesso à internet (99,6%), utilizando-a diariamente (88,7%) e por mais de 10 horas por dia (59,4%). Houve um predomínio do uso do smartphone (65,4%). Foi observado que há um sentimento negativo (ansiedade, irritação, apreensão, tédio e falta de concentração) quando os adolescentes são proibidos de usar (66,8%) ou ficam longe do aparelho por algum tempo (66,8%). Os adolescentes também relataram sentir-se dependentes (62,9%) dessas tecnologias.
CONCLUSÃO: Os adolescentes dessa pesquisa utilizam os aparelhos tecnológicos de forma excessiva, relatando problemas comportamentais relacionados ao sentimento de dependência do aparelho e agressividade, principalmente entre aqueles com tempo de uso superior a 10 horas por dia.


In Brazil, 65% of youngsters up to 25 years of age access the internet every day, dropping to only 4% among seniors more than 65 years old. This disparity is a reflection of recent technological progress, associated with the social and demographic characteristics of the population, reconfigurations of inter-personal relationships and hands-on familiarity with technology among younger generations 1.2.

This is a context where an organizational structure of border-free ongoing interactions handles socialization, mainly through social networks2, 3. It is noted that this new generation of adolescents is linked closely to these technological resources, even leading to a reversal of family roles, when they teach their parents how to use them4.

However, internet use may adversely affect the healthy development of adolescents and young people, being associated with sleep deprival, mood swings5, 6 and feelings of dependence7. As a result, the purpose of this paper is to explore the association between the use of high-tech devices and indicators of behavioral problems among adolescent schoolchildren.


An exploratory cross-sectional study was adopted for a non-probabilistic sample of 264 boys and girls enrolled at a State government school in the Recife Metropolitan Region. This study used the criterion of adolescence defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the age bracket between 10 and 19 years old.

The data were collected through a questionnaire based on the categories proposed by Agosto and Hughes-Hassell (2006)8, consisting of seventeen items seeking information on age, gender, BMI, accessibility, types of devices and their use, feelings about bans, and health problems caused by excessive use. The social and demographic variables used were: age, divided into 10 - 12 years old, 13 - 15 years old and 17 - 19 years of age; gender; schooling; use of technological devices and the internet; dependence and feelings about the device. Attempts are made to correlate these factors with behavioral problems. These data were collected during May 2015, with a mean of 25 pupils in the classroom, with completion time varying between twenty and thirty minutes.

The questions related to indicators of behavioral problems included: assessment of the use of technological devices, categorized as: dependent, somewhat dependent, I can live without this (these) device(s), makes no difference in my life.  The characterization of feelings about a ban on using technological devices followed the guideline question: "When banned from using this (these) device(s), how do you feel?" The reply options were: anxious, irritated, bored, I lose concentration on other things, does not affect my daily life. The characterization of feelings about staying away from the electronic device followed the guideline question: "When staying away from this (these) device(s), how do you feel?"With the following reply options: Anxious, irritated, eager to use them soon, bored, I lose concentration on other things, does not interfere in my daily life. The characterization of aggressiveness resulting from a ban on the use of electronic devices offered reply options of Yes or No.

Double-entry data tabulation was handled through the Epidata 3.1 program (Epidata Assoc., Odense, Denmark), correcting errors found during validation. The statistical calculations were conducted through the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 21.0. (SPSS Inc., Chicago, USA). The descriptive analysis included frequency distributions for the categorical data and the mean and standard deviation for the numerical data.  The inferential analysis used the chi-square test, with a value of p≤0.05.  For the data analysis, the dependent variables were dichotomized.

This research project complies with the precepts established by the Research Ethics Committee and Resolution Nº 466/12, and was submitted to and approved by the Ethics Committee, Pernambuco University under CAAE Nº: 43210815.3.0000.5192.


This research project encompassed 264 pupils, most of whom were girls (52.3%) with a mean age of 15.64 (minimum of 11 and maximum of 19 years of age). With regard to technology use, almost all of these youngsters accessed the internet (99.6%) The mean age for the first use of technological devices was 10.42 years of age (minimum of 4 and maximum of 16 years old). Among the technological devices listed, the most widely used was the smartphone (65.2%%), with more than half of the respondents reporting periods of more than ten hours a day using these devices (Table 1).

Among the respondents, six out of each ten felt they were dependent on the use of these technological devices, with around 70% mentioning some feelings about a ban on their use, feeling that staying away from the device interferes in their daily lives. Just over a quarter of these youngsters reported feeling aggressive or irritable when forbidden to use these devices.

The pupils who reported more than ten hours of use a day of these technological devices were those with the strongest feelings about a ban on them (76.8%). Among them, 75.2% are girls (p= 0.012) and 71.5% use smartphones and tablets (p= 0.043). For the question on feelings prompted by staying away from their devices, those using the devices for more ten hours 76.1% felt that this interfered in their daily lives (p=0.001) (Table 2).

It is noted that regardless of the number of hours of use, there were negative feelings when forbidden to use them, with staying away from the device interfering in their daily lives. However, duration of use did not interfere significantly in interpersonal relationships.

It was noted that the duration of use also influenced the ways in which these adolescents assessed their relationships with these devices, demonstrating feelings of dependence. Another factor explored was aggressiveness, with adolescents using these devices for more than ten hours presenting the most aggressive symptoms (Table 2). For interpersonal interactions with relatives, romantic relationships and friendships, these youngsters stated that they did not feel that interference with their communications was a problem (Table 2).


The results of this study suggest that there is behavioral interference for adolescent schoolchildren engaged in excessive use of technology, as their easy accessibility and handling, privacy, freedom and autonomy may foster a certain emotional lability when deprived of their use. According to Barossi (2009)9,

"The parents or guardians of adolescents frequently report the influence of excessive Internet use on their offspring, as well as behavioral deficits expressed in their routines, reflected in the family, academic, professional, social and physical health fields. Added to this are difficulties due to mood swings, depressive behavior and impulsive emotional reactions when their use of the use of the worldwide web is restricted."

It was noted that adolescents use smartphones most frequently, for more than ten hours a day.  The preference for these devices may be explained by advances in smartphone software, offering more practical transport and easier accessibility, compared to laptops or desktops. Moreover, social networks and games are other major attractions buoying the popularity of these devices10, 11.

Staying away from the device and bans on their use reflect the relationship of dependence reported by most of the adolescents, which may be viewed from two standpoints: one positive, as they are admitting they have a problem, which is the first step towards solving it, and one negative, because when admitting that they feel dependent on these devices, they also accept the risks arising from this dependence, or that it may cause in various aspects of their lives. This dependence may reflect the relationship between these adolescents and their devices, viewing them as a confidant who is available 24 hours a day, with links of affection, where they can be someone different from the real world, happier and more attractive7.

Just as there are conflicts in real-life relationships, it is suggested that these conflicts are replicated at the virtual level. Aggression towards use was an interesting factor that was also a matter for concern, as it may well reflect this assumption, or a relationship of dependence with the device and the internet11. The use of technologies and the resulting consequences is a broad and very recent topic that requires ongoing investigation, as technology is not static, with new ways of using it appearing every day. If properly deployed, it can be a great ally, and parents must always be alert to how it is being used, in situations of dependence.

The conclusions reached by this research project are far from revolutionizing questions about adolescents and their high-tech relationships. This is merely an overview of what is happening with many youngsters, thus setting the context for other studies and preventive measures that could be implemented. This study is subject to some limitations, as it is exploratory. As more than half the pupils reported device use of more than ten hours a day, other indicators could be added for investigating symptoms such as depression, insomnia, classroom performance and sedentary lifestyles.


The adolescents responding to this survey are engaged in excessive use of technological devices, reporting behavioral problems related to feelings of dependence on their devices and aggression, particularly among those reporting use of more than ten hours a day.


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