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Suicide Risk in Emerging Adulthood: Associations with Screen Time over 10 years

Abstract

Suicide rates have increased over the past decade, and screen media (and social media in particular) are often blamed for this marked increase. However, there is little longitudinal research on this topic. The current study examined the link between various types of screen media use over a 10-year period (from adolescence to emerging adulthood) to suicide risk in emerging adulthood. Participants included 500 adolescents (51% female) who were first surveyed in 2009, when they were an average of 13.82 years old (range 12-15 years). For girls, a high level of social media or television use in early adolescence followed by a marked increase over time was most predictive of suicide risk in emerging adulthood. Additionally, video game use that increased over time was also associated with a higher risk for developing suicide risk for girls. A passive sensing measurement was also included at the final wave of data collection to obtain a more accurate and complete picture of phone use in particular. The use of entertainment apps was risky for girls while reading apps were risky for boys. Additionally, video game use (for boys) was associated with suicide risk when cyberbullying was also high. Identifying nonnormative patterns of media during adolescence may be instructive in terms of suicide prevention efforts.

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Authors’ Contributions

SC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; JH conducted the statistical analyses, managed data collection and drafted the results section; WJD participated in the design and interpretation of the results and drafted part of the manuscript; QH drafted parts of the introduction and discussion and helped interpret the results; ES drafted parts of the introduction; SB managed the data collection and the passive sensing portion of the study; GJ drafted parts of the introduction. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Funding

We thank the Family Studies Center at BYU, the School of Family Life, and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU, and recognize the generous support of the many private donors who assisted in this project. No external funding was received for this project.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Sarah M. Coyne.

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This project was pre-registered with the Open Science Framework (see osf.io/6j8pw). Study design and description and basic hypotheses were included.

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This research was approved by the primary author’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) and all participants were treated in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association.

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Informed consent was obtained at every wave of the study and participants could decline to participate at any stage.

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Coyne, S.M., Hurst, J.L., Dyer, W.J. et al. Suicide Risk in Emerging Adulthood: Associations with Screen Time over 10 years. J Youth Adolescence 50, 2324–2338 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01389-6

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Keywords

  • Suicide
  • Media
  • Longitudinal
  • Video game
  • Social media
  • Passive sensing