Discrepancies Between Self-reported and Objectively Measured Smartphone Screen Time: Before and During Lockdown

Publication Name

Journal of Prevention


Screen time shows higher health risks compared to other types of sedentary behaviors. A lockdown may simultaneously increase screen time, reduce physical activity (PA), and change time perception. Our goal was to compare self-reported against objectively measured smartphone screen time (SST) in a sample of active and inactive Portuguese adults before and during a social lockdown. This study was a cross-sectional analysis with 211 Portuguese adults (57.8% males), aged 25.2 ± 8.5 years, from two cohorts, one before the social lockdown and the other during the lockdown. SST was self-reported (SR-SST) and objectively measured using a smartphone (OM-SST). PA was self-reported. Linear regressions were performed to determine the association between SR-SST and OM-SST. A Bland and Altman analysis was used to assess agreement. Independent T-tests were performed for comparisons between cohorts and paired sample T-tests for comparisons within each cohort. The cohort assessed during the lockdown showed a higher SST than the cohort assessed before the lockdown (OM-SST; p < 0.001 and SR-SST; p = 0.009). Before the lockdown, there was no difference between SR-SST and OM-SST (p = 0.100). However, during the social lockdown, although the agreement between SR-SST and OM-SST was good (ICC = 0.72), participants systematically underestimated their SST by ~ 71 min/day (p < 0.001), and this underestimation was higher in inactive participants (~ 85 min/day) than in active individuals (~ 49 min/day). The general population needs to be aware of the benefits of limiting screen time, especially during periods of societal modifications, such as a generalized lockdown. There was a tendency to underestimate SST, meaning a lack of awareness of the actual time spent in this potentially deleterious behavior. This underestimation was more pronounced during the lockdown period and for the inactive participants, thus posing a greater health risk. The findings from this investigation entail relevant information for policy makers to delineate strategies for reducing population screen time from a preventive health perspective.

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