School of Population and Global Health

School of Population Health Screen Use and Mental Health In Ages 8-18: A sequential latent growth model

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Given the pervasiveness of screen-based technologies in young people’s lives it is crucial to understand the links between screen use and mental health, as well as to develop evidence-based guidelines for screen use.


Children and adolescents are spending an increasing amount of their waking hours on screens, and with more equipment and activities being offered for their enjoyment, this trend is unlikely to stop. While there has been some research looking at the how screen use  relates to children’s physical health, much less attention has been paid to the impact of this on their mental health.

This study aims to examine the relationship between screen use and mental health as well as to develop evidence based guidelines for child and adolescent screen use.


The study examines frequency, intensity and types of screen-based activity used by young people, and how this varies for different age groups and gender. It is also the first study internationally to look at screen use and mental health over time.

This project is being run over 3 years (2013 – 2015) and targets students from schools in Western Australia, including metropolitan Perth and regional school communities in Katanning, Manjimup, Margaret River and York.  Due to its innovative design, the study involves only 3 years of data collection, but this will be used to estimate a 10 year pattern for children and adolescents’ screen use and mental health and mental illness.


This study is now in its second year of data collection, and is tracking students who were in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 at the start year (2013). The total sample size is 2767 students across 25 schools (17 metro, 8 rural).  

Preliminary analysis has been undertaken of the relationship between screen use (quantity and type) and measures of mental wellbeing, depressive symptoms, loneliness and friendships.  Further analysis is now looking at how particular types of screen use (eg social networking sites versus gaming) relate to depression.  

The study has also developed a new measure of problematic screen use. This is partly in response to the term ‘addiction’, which is often bandied about in discussions about kids’ screen use of kids (and indeed adults), with negligible measurement or research to back it up.      


This study is funded through the WA Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway).







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Last updated:
Friday, 21 November, 2014 4:17 PM