Reactions to naturalistic smartphone deprivation among psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents

Taylor A. Burke, Sarah E. Domoff, Paul E. Croarkin, Magdalena Romanowicz, Aubrey Borgen, Jennifer Wolff, Jacqueline Nesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The standard of care among youth who are psychiatrically hospitalized typically involves smartphone confiscation for the duration of treatment. However, very little is known regarding how youth respond to this period of smartphone “deprivation,” factors that may influence this response, and ensuing clinical effects. The present exploratory mixed-methods study sought to elucidate the experience of psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents as it relates to smartphone deprivation, and to evaluate the impact of this widespread treatment approach. Psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents (N = 181; Mean age = 15.29 years) completed qualitative and quantitative measures assessing the experience of smartphone deprivation during hospitalization. Associations among reactions to smartphone deprivation and smartphone and social media use patterns were explored. Analyses additionally evaluated whether reactions to smartphone deprivation were associated with clinical symptom severity (e.g., suicidal ideation, internalizing and externalizing symptoms) and readiness for psychotherapy. Negative reactions to smartphone deprivation were significantly positively correlated with daily smartphone hours, addictive patterns of use, and both negative and positive emotional responses to social media use. Reactions to smartphone deprivation were not associated with clinical symptom severity. However, negative reactions to smartphone deprivation were associated with lower readiness for therapy, while positive reactions were associated with greater readiness. This preliminary work illustrates the complexities of smartphone use in adolescents and the potential positive and negative effects of smartphone deprivation during psychiatric hospitalization. Future prospective research with adolescents should clarify optimal smartphone access during inpatient hospitalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Psychiatric hospitalization
  • Smartphone
  • Social media


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