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The role of problematic technology use for adolescents: The importance of sleep for wellbeing

Vernon, Lynette (2016) The role of problematic technology use for adolescents: The importance of sleep for wellbeing. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Peer social-networks increase in their salience through adolescence. With access to technology, adolescents extend face-to-face peer interactions to the online environment. Adolescents’ heavy engagement in technology, however, can pose risks to their wellbeing. This thesis examines one potential mechanism through which this may occur, vis-a-vis problematic sleep. Two features of adolescents’ technology use were measured that related to peer interactions on-line, social-networking and mobile-phone use. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data were drawn from a representative sample of adolescents. Study-1 used cross-sectional data including a new social-networking investment measure, and Study-2 and Study-3 used longitudinal data including students across Years 8 to 11. Study-1 investigated adolescents’ problematic social-networking using structural-equation-modeling. A serial mediation pathway was shown in which adolescents’ overinvestment in social-networking was associated with increased sleep disturbances and adverse perceptions of sleep quality, which in turn were associated with decreased school satisfaction. These results suggest that minimizing sleep disturbances from problematic social-networking could arguably improve adolescent school experiences. Study-2 examined a mediational process using latent trajectories; problematic social-networking was associated with a trajectory of disturbed sleep, which in turn associated with psychopathology (depressed mood, externalizing). Adolescents who increasingly invested in social-networking also increased in their depressed mood; half of this association was explained by the mediating role of increased sleep disruption. Adolescents who increasingly invested in social-networking also reported increased externalizing behavior (13% via sleep disruption). Again, these findings point to an important role of sleep disruption in adolescent wellbeing. Study-3 tested how adolescents’ problematic use of mobile-phones linked to a range of wellbeing indicators: depressed mood, externalizing behavior, self-esteem, and coping. Increases in problematic mobile-phone use predicted later increases in externalizing and subsequent decreases in self-esteem and coping. Importantly, changes in sleep behavior mediated the relation between early changes in problematic mobile-phone use and later increases in depressed mood and externalizing and later declines in self-esteem and coping. These results advocate for monitoring of and education about adolescents’ late-night mobile-phone use as well as further attention to pervasive effects of disrupted sleep on adolescent functioning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Correia, Helen
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