The diurnal pattern and social context of screen behaviours in adolescents: A cross-sectional analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study

Elli Kontostoli, Andy P. Jones, Andrew J. Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Screen behaviours are highly prevalent in young people and excessive screen use may pose a risk to physical and mental health. Understanding the timing and social settings in which young people accumulate screen time may help to inform the design of interventions to limit screen use. This study aimed to describe diurnal patterns in adolescents’ screen-based behaviours and examine the association of social context with these behaviours on weekdays and weekend days.
Methods: Time use diary data are from the sixth wave (2015/2016) of the Millennium Cohort Study, conducted when participants were aged 14 years. Outcome variables were electronic games/Apps, TV-viewing, phone calls and emails/texts, visiting social networking sites and internet browsing. Social context was categorised as alone only, parents only, friends only, siblings only, parents and siblings only. Multilevel multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the association between social contexts and screen activities.
Results: Time spent in TV-viewing was greatest in the evening with a peak of 20 minutes in every hour between 20:00 and 22:00 in both sexes on weekdays/weekend days. Time spent using electronic games/Apps for boys and social network sites for girls was greatest in the afternoon/evening on weekdays and early afternoon/late evening on weekend days. Screen activities were mainly undertaken alone, except for TV-viewing. Compared to being alone, being with family members was associated with (Odds Ratio (95% Confidence Interval)) more time in TV-viewing in both boys and girls throughout the week (Weekdays: Boys, 2.84 (2.59, 3.11); Girls, 2.25 (2.09, 2.43); Weekend days: Boys, 4.40 (4.16, 4.67); Girls, 5.02 (4.77, 5.27)). Being with friends was associated with more time using electronic games on weekend days in both sexes (Boys, 3.31 (3.12, 3.51); Girls, 3.13 (2.67, 3.67)).
Conclusions: Reductions in screen behaviours may be targeted throughout the day but should be sensitive to differing context. Family members, friends, and adolescent themselves may be important target groups in behaviour change interventions. Future research to address the complex interplay between social context, content and quality of screen behaviours will aid the design of behaviour change interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1143
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2022


  • screen behaviours
  • adolescents
  • diurnal pattern
  • social context
  • time-use diary
  • cross-sectional
  • Screen behaviours
  • Time-use diary
  • Diurnal pattern
  • Social context
  • Adolescents
  • Cross-sectional

Cite this