Background: Although public health concerns have been raised regarding the detrimental health effects of increasing rates of electronic screen use among adolescents, such effects have been small. Instruments currently available tend to be lengthy, have a clinical research focus, and assess young people's screen use on specific screen-based activities (e.g., TV, computer, or internet). None appear to address screen use across a broad range of screens, including mobile devices and screen-based activities. The objective was to develop a new and short self-report scale for investigating adolescents' screen use across all screens and screen-based activities in non-clinical settings.
Methods: The Adolescent Preoccupation with Screens Scale (APSS) was developed over a three stage process. First, a review of the current literature and existing instruments was undertaken and suitable items identified. Second, the draft APSS was piloted with adolescents and item affectivity and discrimination indices were calculated. Third, a cross sectional school based online survey of 1967 Australian adolescents in grades 5 (10 years old), 7 (13 years) and 9 (15 years) from 25 randomly selected schools was conducted.
Results: Factor Analysis on a sub-sample of the data (n = 782) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis on the remaining sub-sample (n = 1185), supported a two-factor model. The first factor reflects adolescents' mood management with screen use, and the second reflects a behavioural preoccupation. The measure demonstrated strong invariance across sex and across Grades 5, 7, and 9. Both factors displayed good internal consistency (alpha = .91 and .87, respectively). Sex and grade differences on both scales were investigated and boys in Grade 5 reported higher levels of both mood management and behavioural preoccupation with screens. There were no sex differences on mood management in Grades 7 and 9, but girls reported higher behavioural preoccupation in both these later grades.
Conclusion: The APSS provides researchers with a new, brief and robust measure of potentially problematic screen use across a wide array of screens, including mobile devices, so readily accessed during adolescence.