Purpose: Problematic smartphone use has been associated with negative effects in work and school environments. This study proposes the application of a behavioural economics perspective to establish whether heavy smartphone users show a tendency to devalue the consequences of their behaviour in the long term. To address this proposition, the study sought to establish how an objective measurement of usage time of smartphones and apps might help to predict, firstly, participants’ choice behaviour and, secondly, their perceived dependence levels. Design/methodology/approach: An objective measurement of the usage time of smartphones and apps was conducted over four weeks (N = 560 data points), and a computer-based intertemporal choice task and the Spanish version of the Smartphone Addiction Inventory (SPAI) were applied. The participants were twenty undergraduate college students. Findings: Although the usage time of devices and apps failed to predict the choice behaviour, a correlation was found between the total usage time of smartphones and WhatsApp and Facebook apps and users’ dependence level. On the other hand, dependence had a positive effect on the average selection of the impulsive choice. Originality/value: This paper proposes the application of a behavioural economics perspective to explore the relationship between objectively measured usage time of smartphone and apps, choice behaviours in an intertemporal task and users’ perceived dependence levels. This allows us to consider an alternative to the traditional psychiatric approach in an environment of increasing access to and use of mobile digital platforms.
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