Screen time, sleep and mental health

We are completing three core funded projects which focus on sleep, screen time and mental health. The first is a systematic review which explores the evidence on the longitudinal association between adolescent mobile device screen time, or use, and sleep and mental health. This will be published in 2022. We are also completing a piece of work exploring adolescent’s subjective experiences at school (i.e. relationships with teachers and classmates). These have been associated with academic achievement, and also have implications for health and wellbeing. Using data from the 2014 and 2018 waves of the Scottish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study, we aim to explore the relationship between sleep and indicators of school experience.

A final area of work focusses on intervention development (CLOCK-OFF project) which will use a peer influence approach to reduce night-time use of interactive electronic devices and social media among adolescents. The use of interactive electronic devices (IEDs) can have both positive and negative impacts on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Our PPI work with young people highlighted the many benefits of IED use, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, they also identified night-time device use and its impact on sleep duration and quality as problematic. Our stakeholder engagement with schools has highlighted mental health; tiredness and sleep; and IED and social media use as their major health and wellbeing priorities. In recent years, there has been a shift towards reduced sleep among young people. One factor contributing to this is night-time use of IEDs and social media which have been linked to delayed bedtimes and disrupted sleep. Peers are a key influence on night-time device use, particularly through interactions via social media. Social pressure and fear of missing out if not online, as well as disapproval by peers when not meeting norms relating to online availability and prompt responses encourage further use.

We are working with schools, parents and young people to refine a programme consisting of three components: 1) a peer led approach which involves students identifying influential members of their year group to be trained as peer supporters. Peer supporters will be trained to share messages about the negative impacts of night-time IED and social media use among students in their year; (2) the Sleepy Teens programme developed by the University of Glasgow; (3) Sleep Scotland’s Sound Sleep programme which includes (i) teaching materials on the importance of sleep; (ii) Sleep Mentors, who are older children who promote the importance of sleep and act as sources of advice and (iii) a parent/carer information pack detailing how they can support improved sleep.

Once the intervention is developed we will recruit schools to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the programme and interview peer supporters, other students, mentors and school staff about their experiences. This work will inform the development of a future randomised controlled trial with embedded process evaluation in schools across Scotland and Wales.

Other relevant studies in this theme

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