Leisure and smartphone use among digital natives: exploring lived experiences

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of this study was to explore adolescents’ experiences with having and using smartphones and how those experiences influenced their leisure. Hermeneutic phenomenology guided the design of this research. Purposive sampling was used to select nine participants between the ages of 14 and 17. Data were collected through semistructured interviews to develop an understanding of the nature and meaning of participants’ lived experiences. Data analysis followed van Manen’s detailed line-by-line approaches to isolating thematic aspects within the interview texts and formulating themes. The findings suggest that smartphones played a central role in adolescents’ leisure. They used their smartphone more often when they were participating in unstructured leisure activities; however, when participating in structured leisure activities, their smartphone use was decreased. These adolescents also expressed being bored during available leisure time when they were not engaged in structured leisure activities (i.e., sport, theatre and school clubs). Despite the entertainment value of smartphones, the participants experienced their leisure with their smartphones as relatively unsatisfying when they were bored. Smartphone use facilitated leisure during both unstructured leisure and obligatory tasks by offering intermittent leisure. Although their smartphone distracted them during their leisure and obligatory tasks, having access to intermittent leisure may have enhanced their overall leisure experience. The findings suggest that smartphone use hindered adolescents from being able to fully engage in the activity. However, having access to their smartphone and sharing their experience with others may have enhanced their experience.