Beyond “screentime”: reframing bedtime social media use as a social interaction with unique implications for adolescent sleep

Scott, Holly (2019) Beyond “screentime”: reframing bedtime social media use as a social interaction with unique implications for adolescent sleep. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[img] PDF
Download (2MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


There is significant current attention towards the possible impact of social media on adolescent wellbeing, with concerns voiced by parents, educators, practitioners and national policymakers. This includes a focus on social media’s influence on sleep, which plays a crucial role in supporting physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and academic performance during this developmental period. However, there are key limitations in the existing evidence base available to support informed decision-making in this area. These include a prevalent techno-centric focus on “screentime” – which is typically measured only in hours per day and often framed negatively or pathologised – and a lack of adolescent voice. This PhD aims to target gaps in current understanding of adolescent social media use and sleep, enriching the evidence and tools available to support future research, practice and policy.

This thesis presents four studies, which contribute to building new understanding of the unique implications that social media interactions – unlike other forms of technology use – have for adolescent sleep. Chapter 3 makes use of data from a large representative UK sample, to establish a normative profile for current adolescent social media use and to quantify links to a range of sleep parameters, controlling for an extensive range of covariates. Chapter 4 uses rich focus group data to provide an adolescent perspective on emotional, social and cognitive drivers for bedtime social media use that can make it difficult for some adolescents to disengage at night. Chapter 5 takes these qualitative findings as a foundation for developing a new validated self-report measure that captures this difficulty disengaging from social media at night due to concerns about staying connected and following etiquette. Chapter 6 considers the practical application of the new knowledge gained from these studies, by consulting with relevant stakeholders to develop and pilot a new school-based lesson programme that specifically targets the role of social influence in adolescent bedtime social media and sleep habits.

These studies advance current understanding by highlighting the unique implications that this inherently social and interactive experience has for adolescent sleep, beyond simply another hour of daily “screentime”. Together, these findings indicate that adolescent sleep research and practice need to reframe social media not simply as a technology-based activity, but as a highly motivating and rewarding source of peer interactions, which understandably competes with sleep during a developmental period of heightened sensitivity to social influences. Adopting this approach can extend current models of adolescent sleep, inform up-to-date interventions and education strategies, support more efficient future research and guide a more constructive narrative in public and policy spheres.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Content included in this thesis has been published in the following open access articles: Scott, H., Biello, S. M., and Woods, H. C. (2019). Social media use and adolescent sleep patterns: cross-sectional findings from the UK millennium cohort study. BMJ Open, 9, e031161. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031161 Scott, H., Biello, S. M., and Woods, H. C. (in press). Identifying drivers for bedtime social media use despite sleep costs: The adolescent perspective. Sleep Health. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.07.006 Scott, H., and Woods, H.C. (2019). Understanding Links Between Social Media Use, Sleep and Mental Health: Recent Progress and Current Challenges. Current Sleep Medicine Reports, 5(3), 141-149. doi: 10.1007/s40675-019-00148-9
Keywords: Social media, screen time, sleep, adolescence.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Cleland Woods, Dr. Heather and Biello, Prof. Stephany M.
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Dr Holly Scott
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-76732
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2019 08:35
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2022 08:06
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.76732
Related URLs:

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year