Examining the relationship between screen time and achievement motivation in an adolescent population

(1) Westview High School, Portland, Oregon, (2) HSR&D Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care, VA Portland Health Care System and Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon

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During these times of unprecedented technological advancement, digital screens and devices have become synonymous with 21st-century life. However, such prevalence comes at a price. Research has shown a multitude of mental and physical health problems linked to excessive screen time. Although the effects of screen time have been extensively studied, one area at the core of mental health among adolescents has had limited examination: motivation, which is the drive to reach personal goals or to improve oneself. The purpose of this project was to identify the association between screen habits and achievement orientation, specifically in the prolific screen-using population of adolescents, by surveying students attending a large, suburban high school in Oregon. The survey contained three sections: one involving the Ray-Lynn Achievement Orientation scale to measure motivation; another asking participants about screen habits (time spent, devices used, and activities completed); and a third asking demographics questions. In total, 217 responses were collected. Using linear multiple regression, both average screen time—excluding work/school-related tasks—and entertainment-oriented screen time were found to be associated with lower achievement orientation. Average smartphone, television, and social media time were found to be smaller predictors of lower achievement motivation. Additionally, the results showed that all significant screen habits had negative associations with achievement motivation for adolescents. Sexual orientation was found to be a significant covariate in the models. Sources of error include the small sample size and the lack of equal grade-level representation. Further research could include experimentally manipulating participants’ screen time to evaluate a causal relationship.

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