Comment; Adolescence is such an emotional minefield, add to that addictive behavior of any sort-substance or behavior and things get more complicated. Here, however, we have a predictive model that seems to work and indicate a marker for who needs intervention.

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Body dissatisfaction (BD) positively predicted smartphone addiction (SA).•

Positive self-presentation (PSP) mediated the link between BD and SA.•

The mediating role of PSP was moderated by friendship quality (FQ).


Based on compensatory satisfaction theory, the present study examined the relation between body dissatisfaction and adolescent smartphone addiction, as well as the roles of positive self-presentation on social networking sites and friendship quality. A sample of 1036 Chinese adolescents from 11 to 15 years of age (mean age = 12.41 years, SD = 0.65) responded to anonymous questionnaires regarding body dissatisfaction, friendship quality, positive self-presentation on social networking sites and smartphone addiction. The results indicated that body dissatisfaction could positively predict adolescent smartphone addiction. In addition, positive self-presentation on social networking sites mediated the relation between body dissatisfaction and smartphone addiction. Moreover, the first part of the mediating effect (i.e., the link from body dissatisfaction to positive self-presentation on social networking sites) was moderated by friendship quality, with the effect being significant only for adolescents with low levels of friendship quality. The present study can advance our understanding about smartphone addiction and how human interact with technology. Limitations and implication about the present study are also discussed.

1. Introduction

Current advances in technology have deeply shaped the modern society, and smartphone technology is ubiquitous in our daily life. However, smartphone technology is an example of “paradox of technology”, because it can both benefit and enslave us simultaneously (Barnes, Pressey, & Scornavacca, 2019). Smartphones provide us with the portable access to obtain information and facilitate communication, nevertheless, the excessive use of smartphones can also result in smartphone addiction. Smartphone addiction is characterized by excessive or compulsive smartphone usage with detrimental consequences (Liu et al., 2017Rozgonjuk et al., 2018). In previous studies, internet addiction was a traditional focus for studies of technology addiction (e.g., Li et al., 2016Stavropoulos et al., 2017). However, with the rapid development of mobile devices, smartphones have greater portability than other computing devices, and smartphone addiction may supplant the internet as a possible source of addiction (Barnes et al., 2019Lin et al., 2015). Growing evidence suggested that, smartphone addiction can lead to physical and mental problems, such as hand dysfunction (İNal, Demİrcİ, Çetİntürk, Akgönül., & Savaş, 2015), sleep disturbances (Demirci et al., 2015Liu et al., 2017), depression and anxiety (Elhai, Dvorak, Levine, & Hall, 2017). Notably, adolescents are especially vulnerable to smartphone addiction since they are low in self-regulation and more likely to be influenced by peers (Ding et al., 2017Spada, 2014). Further, negative outcomes of addiction in adolescence may sustain into adulthood (Englund, Egeland, Oliva, & Collins, 2008). Thus, it is important to reveal why individuals are influenced by technology from a psychological perspective (Shin & Biocca, 2018), as well as explore the risk factors and mechanisms for adolescent smartphone addiction, which can improve the prevention and treatment for adolescent smartphone addiction.

Compensatory satisfaction theory (CST) contributes to a comprehensive theoretical paradigm to explain why adolescents are addicted to internet-related technology (Liu, Fang, Wan, & Zhou, 2016). According to CST, internet serves as a compensatory method to satisfy individuals’ psychological needs, however, when individuals identify the advantages of the internet over real life in satisfying their needs, they will be more likely to use the internet excessively, increasing the risk of internet addiction (Liu et al., 2016). Therefore, adolescents who are not satisfied with their current conditions in real life are more likely to be engaged in excessive smartphone use, because online interactions through smartphones may compensate for their dissatisfaction. For adolescents, the pubertal status can induce physical changes including changes in body images (Barker & Galambos, 2003). Adolescents have growing concerns about their body images and the appearances of their bodies become central to their self-evaluation (Maxwell & Cole, 2012). Therefore, adolescents with body dissatisfaction may experience low self-worth in real life and are more likely to seek positive responses through smartphones. For example, social networking sites (SNSs) can provide adolescents with the opportunities to selectively present the positive aspects and build a desired image of themselves in the virtual world (Kim & Lee, 2011), which may compensate for the dissatisfaction with one’s body. However, the positive responses brought by online social interactions may reinforce individuals’ smartphone usage, increasing the risk of smartphone addiction (Davis, 2001). Nevertheless, not all adolescents with body dissatisfaction will be addicted to smartphones or choose to satisfy their needs through online interactions. According to CST, only when advantages of the internet over real life in satisfying one’s needs are identified, will the risk of smartphone addiction increase (Liu et al., 2016). That is to say, if adolescents can get sufficient positive responses and social support in real life, they may not turn to online interactions through smartphones even they are not satisfied with their body. Adolescence is a critical stage for the development of peer relationships (Markey, 2010), and high-quality friendships can sever as important sources of adolescents’ need satisfaction (Demir and Özdemir, 2010La Greca and Harrison, 2005). Compared with those with low-quality friendships, adolescents with high-quality friendships are more likely to receive comfort and encouragement from their friends when they have negative feelings about themselves. For adolescents with body dissatisfaction, the comfort and support from real-life friends may help them relieve negative feelings (Ata, Ludden, & Lally, 2007), reducing their possibility to participant in online interactions and become addicted to smartphones. Guided by CST, the present study aims to examine a moderated mediation model to reveal the mechanisms underlying body dissatisfaction and adolescent smartphone addiction, and the integrated model can reveal how and when body dissatisfaction leads to smartphone addiction (Muller & Judd, 2005). In this model, the relation between body dissatisfaction and smartphone addiction is mediated by positive self-presentation on SNSs, and the direct relation as well as the first stage of mediation are moderated by friendship quality.


In summary, although with some limitations, the current study took a critical step in examining the moderated mediation model through which body dissatisfaction was associated with adolescent smartphone addiction. We conclude that body dissatisfaction can positively predict adolescent smartphone addiction. Also, positive self-presentation on SNSs serve as a mediator of the relation by which body dissatisfaction is associated with adolescent smartphone addiction. Furthermore, the first part of the mediating effect is moderated by friendship quality. Specifically, the effect of body dissatisfaction on positive self-presentation on SNSs is only significant for adolescents with low-quality friendships.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink