International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1404–1419 | Cite as

Collective Play Versus Excessive Use: an Insight into Family-Focused Design Intervention for Mobile Phone Overuse

  • Benny Ding LeongEmail author
  • Brian Yu Hin Lee
  • Kenny Ka Nin Chow
Original Article


The rapid growth in the usage of mobile and screen-based products and the corresponding addiction of adolescents to such devices continue to cause great concerns among different stakeholders. Family, as a potential psychosocial support for reducing the likelihood of addiction development, can be weakened as a result of the deterioration of parent-adolescent relationships associated with mobile devices overuse. Based on the family functioning and gamification-enhanced concepts, positive and fun interactions between family members can be a vital component in fostering a supportive relationship. An innovative and alternative family-focused intervention strategy, the interactive play platform named “Lamb Lamp,” has been developed to facilitate fun and pleasurable parent-adolescent interactivities. The design aims to divert family members’ attention away from their phones, while facilitating joyful and cheerful engagements for the whole family, with the ultimate aim of fostering the development of a supportive relationship. This paper reports the initial results of a pilot study on 5 families recruited at a community-based treatment center, with at least one child aged between 12 and 19 who exhibited excessive Internet or mobile phone use problems. Daily patterns related to the adolescents’ Internet and mobile use and personal reflections on the perceptions of family interrelationships were recorded through lifestyle probes—a set of self-reporting home assignments—before the placement of the Lamb Lamp. Semi-structured interviews were conducted after the intervention to further solicit feedback from the families. The findings were then summarized and verified by parents and the counselors of the families engaged. Although the feedback collected from the families did not indicate an obvious reduction in mobile use behavior, they confirmed the benefits of this gamification-enhanced intervention in a family context. Collective play not only stimulated emotional connectivity between parents and adolescents, but also encouraged them to relive joyful memories of family activities while dealing with the problem of excessive mobile use.


Mobile phone overuse Design intervention Family functioning Gamification Parent-adolescent relationship 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors of the paper have no conflict of interest

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the case study involving human participants for the paper – “Collective Play versus Excessive Use: An Insight into Family‐focused Design Intervention for Mobile Phone Overuse” – were in accordance with the ethical standards of APA.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Beavers, R., & Hampson, R. B. (2000). The Beavers systems model of family functioning. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2), 128–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beranuy, M., Oberst, U., Carbonell, X., & Chamarro, A. (2009). Problematic Internet and mobile phone use and clinical symptoms in college students: the role of emotional intelligence. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(5), 1182–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Billieux, J., Maurage, P., Lopez-Fernandez, O., Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). Can disordered mobile phone use be considered a behavioral addiction? An update on current evidence and a comprehensive model for future research. Current Addiction Reports, 2(2), 156–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play and games (Meyer Barash, Trans.). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press (Original work published 1958).Google Scholar
  5. Chen, Y. L., Chen, S. H., & Gau, S. S. F. (2015). ADHD and autistic traits, family function, parenting style, and social adjustment for Internet addiction among children and adolescents in Taiwan: a longitudinal study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 39, 20–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, L., Yan, Z., Tang, W., Yang, F., Xie, X., & He, J. (2016). Mobile phone addiction levels and negative emotions among Chinese young adults: the mediating role of interpersonal problems. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 856–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chóliz, M. (2012). Mobile-phone addiction in adolescence: the test of mobile phone dependence (TMD). Progress in Health Sciences, 2(1), 33–44.Google Scholar
  8. Dai, L. T., & Wang, L. N. (2015). Review of family functioning. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 134–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining gamification. Proceedings of the 15 th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning future media environments (pp. 9–15). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  10. Epstein, N. B., Bishop, D. S., & Levin, S. (1978). The McMaster model of family functioning. Journal of Marriage and Family Counseling, 4, 19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fischer, D. G., & Fick, C. (1993). Measuring social desirability: short forms of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53(2), 417–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gaver, B., Dunne, T., & Pacenti, E. (1999). Cultural probes. Interactions, 6(1), 21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goswami, V., & Singh, D. R. (2016). Impact of mobile phone addiction on adolescent’s life: a literature review. International Journal of Home Science, 2(1), 69–74.Google Scholar
  14. Hong, F. Y., Chiu, S. I., & Huang, D. H. (2012). A model of the relationship between psychological characteristics, mobile phone addiction and use of mobile phones by Taiwanese university female students. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(6), 2152–2159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kemp, S. (2017, January 24). Digital in 2017: global overview. Retrieved from
  16. Koivisto, J., & Hamari, J. (2014). Demographic differences in perceived benefits from gamification. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 179–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leong, B. D. (2010). Strategic ‘green’ design: what could we learn from our ways of living in China? Zhuangshi Design Journal, 212, 60–68.Google Scholar
  18. Leung, J. T., Shek, D. T., & Li, L. (2016). Mother–child discrepancy in perceived family functioning and adolescent developmental outcomes in families experiencing economic disadvantage in Hong Kong. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(10), 2036–2048.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liu, Q. X., Fang, X. Y., Deng, L. Y., & Zhang, J. T. (2012). Parent–adolescent communication, parental Internet use and Internet-specific norms and pathological Internet use among Chinese adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(4), 1269–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., LaBrie, R. A., Kidman, R. C., Donato, A. N., & Stanton, M. V. (2004). Toward a syndrome model of addiction: multiple expressions, common etiology. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12(6), 367–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shek, D. T. (2002). Family functioning and psychological well-being, school adjustment, and problem behavior in Chinese adolescents with and without economic disadvantage. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163(4), 497–502.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Shek, D. T., & Yu, L. (2016). Adolescent internet addiction in Hong Kong: prevalence, change, and correlates. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 29(1), S22–S30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Skinner, H., Steinhauer, P., & Sitarenios, G. (2000). Family Assessment Measure (FAM) and process model of family functioning. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2), 190–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Smilkstein, G. (1978). The family APGAR: a proposal for a family function test and its use by physicians. Journal of Family Practice, 6, 1231–1239.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Smilkstein, G. (1984). The physician and family function assessment. Family Systems Medicine, 2(3), 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Takao, M., Takahashi, S., & Kitamura, M. (2009). Addictive personality and problematic mobile phone use. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12(5), 501–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tao, S., Wu, X., Wan, Y., Zhang, S., Hao, J., & Tao, F. (2016). Interactions of problematic mobile phone use and psychopathological symptoms with unintentional injuries: a school-based sample of Chinese adolescents. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 88.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Thrower, S. M., Bruce, W. E., & Walton, R. F. (1982). The family circle method for integrating family systems concepts in family medicine. Journal of Family Practice, 15, 451–457.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Wallace, K. (2016, July 29). Half of teens think they’re addicted to their smartphones. Retrieved from
  31. Wang, H., Zhou, X., Lu, C., Wu, J., Deng, X., & Hong, L. (2011). Problematic internet use in high school students in Guangdong Province, China. PLoS One, 6(5), e19660.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Yen, J. Y., Yen, C. F., Chen, C. C., Chen, S. H., & Ko, C. H. (2007). Family factors of internet addiction and substance use experience in Taiwanese adolescents. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10(3), 323–329.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asian Lifestyle Design Lab, School of DesignHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonChina
  2. 2.Interaction Design Lab, School of DesignHong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonChina

Personalised recommendations