Individual and social influences on videogaming and sleep in adolescents

Author: Lisa Smith

Smith, Lisa, 2017 Individual and social influences on videogaming and sleep in adolescents, Flinders University, School of Psychology

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Current and future cohorts of adolescents face a new and unique developmental challenge managing their requirements for adequate sleep alongside an increasing digitally connected society. This has led to the emergence of electronic media devices in the bedroom and displacement of sleep. Cross-sectional research suggests that Australian adolescents are obtaining insufficient sleep. The extent to which this is due to the high levels of engagement in digital technologies among adolescents is unclear. Despite the existence of models outlining the mechanisms theorised to explain the influence of electronic media on sleep there has been limited testing of such models and a limited attention to the role of individual factors. Such models are also generalised to all electronic media and it is unclear how specific types of technology (e.g., videogaming) are associated with poor sleep in adolescents.

The current thesis provided a general overview of normative sleep and suggested that, for adolescents, environmental factors are a key determinant of poor sleep (Chapter 1). Subsequently the influence of environmental factors such as technology, and more specifically videogaming, on adolescent sleep was outlined (Chapter 2). Prior to addressing the gaps in the literature established in Chapter 2 (i.e., how electronic media impacts upon adolescent sleep), the thesis aimed to confirm that Australian adolescents are currently experiencing insufficient sleep. In Chapter 3, this was done through a survey study which corroborated findings within the literature about adolescent sleep patterns and habits and described the degree to which clinical sleep insufficiency occurs in Australian adolescents and if adolescents are able to recognise sleep insufficiency. Additionally prior to investigating how electronic media impacts upon adolescent sleep Chapter 4 aimed to outline social factors associated with videogaming behaviour in adolescents.

On the basis of the results from previous chapters (3, 4) and previous literature a model outlining how videogaming affects the bedtime, and thus sleep, of adolescents was formed (Chapter 5). In Chapter 5 it was established that “flow” and “parental regulation” of electronic media were key factors associated with videogaming duration and bedtimes in adolescents. However, the findings garnered from previous chapters were based on correlational research and as such it was important to confirm the findings that individual factors such as flow have a negative impact on sleep in adolescents through experimental methodology. Therefore, an experimental study was conducted in Chapter 6 which established that, for a subset of adolescents, when flow occurred during videogaming they selected later bedtimes.

Chapter 7 summarises the findings of the current thesis, the theoretical and clinical implications and discusses the limitations and scope of its findings. The results complement an emerging evidence base which suggests it is the role of technology as a form bedside media which largely explains the negative association with sleep. Additionally the results not only demonstrated the important role of displacement as a mechanism to explain the effect of electronic media on sleep but outlined how displacement may occur during engagement with a specific form of electronic media, videogaming. Through the novel identification of factors (flow, parental regulation) which make it more likely electronic media, such as videogaming, will have a negative impact on sleep, and the mechanisms through which this occurs, the current thesis is able to make practical suggestions for how adolescents and parents may negate the influence of these factors.

Keywords: videogaming, sleep, adolescents

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Psychology
Supervisor: Michael Gradisar