New study: Social relational factors of excessive internet use

22 Oct 2020

IRTIS members J. Mikuška, D. Šmahel, and L. Dědková together with E. Staksrud, G. Macheroni, and T. Milosevic from the EU Kids Online network authored a new study examining the social relational factors influencing adolescents' excessive internet use. The study uses data from Italy, Norway, Czech Republic, and Serbia collected as part of the EU Kids Online IV project. The study was published in the International Journal of Public Health.

Abstract

Objectives
Adolescents who deal with more emotional problems have been found to seek escape online, and struggle with excessive internet use (EIU). Poor social relationships have been linked with emotional problems. The current study investigated positive family and school relationships as protective factors against emotional problems and a preference for online social interaction (POSI), both specified as mediators of the association of family and school relationships with EIU. Cross-cultural differences in the model were tested.

Methods
A multi-group SEM was tested on representative samples of 4104 adolescents (Mage = 14.40 years, SD = 1.65, range 12–17, 50% female) from four European countries from Southern, Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe (Italy, Norway, Czech Republic, and Serbia, respectively).

Results
Results suggested consistent associations across countries. Positive family relationships and positive school relationships were associated with lower EIU, with 63–64% of the effect of family, and 91–93% of the effect of school relationships mediated by emotional problems and POSI.

Conclusions
Positive family and school relationships protect adolescents against excessive internet usage, regardless of culture and indirectly—through emotional problems and POSI.

Read the full study here

Main findings

  • Better social relationships indirectly protect adolescents from excessive internet use

  • Adolescents with better family relationships tend to have less emotional problems and lower preference for online social interactions, making them less prone to excessive internet use

  • Adolescents with better school relationships also tend to have less emotional problems, making them less prone to excessive internet use

  • These findings are consistent across four studied European countries

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