European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 174, Issue 8, pp 1053–1059 | Cite as

What keeps female problematic internet users busy online?

  • Claire Piguet
  • André Berchtold
  • Christina Akre
  • Joan-Carles Suris
Original Article


While problematic Internet use is recognized to be predominant among male adolescents, a female trend is gradually becoming apparent. Our study aimed at investigating the characteristics of female Internet users and distinguishing between the online activities of problematic and regular Internet users’ on school days. Data were retrieved from a cross-sectional survey of a representative sample of 3067 8th graders in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, that completed an online questionnaire in 2012. Only females were included. Based on the Internet addiction test, the sample was divided into regular (RUs) (IAT < 50, n = 1339) and problematic users (PIUs) (IAT ≥ 50, n = 201). Groups were compared regarding sociodemographic variables, online activities, devices used to access the Internet, substance use, and physical activity. Significant variables were included in a backward logistic regression. At the multivariate level, PIUs were more prone to spend time online for leisure activities (odds ratio [OR] 2.38) and to access the Internet through a smartphone (OR 1.79) or tablet (OR 1.84). PIUs were less likely to be physically active (OR 0.86) and more likely to present poor emotional well-being (OR 2.67) and to smoke (OR 1.88).

Conclusion: A sizeable percentage of female adolescents are problematic Internet users. When performing a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment, teenagers owning numerous devices to access the Internet, presenting other health-compromising behaviors or poor emotional well-being should be specifically targeted.

What is Known:

• Problematic Internet use has been found to be predominant among males.

• Specific online activities have been identified as being addictive for young men and women differently.

• Problematic Internet use is known to impact in several ways the general health and daily functioning of teenagers.

What is New:

• A sizeable percentage of female adolescents are problematic Internet users.

• Tobacco use, poor well-being, as well as compact devices to access the Internet are positively related to problematic Internet use.

• In addition to their special interest in online social and communicational activities, female problematic Internet users also reported more online gambling.


Internet Female adolescents Internet addiction Online activities 



Internet addiction test


Problematic Internet users


Regular Internet users



The study has been financed by the Service of Public Health of the canton of Vaud and by the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS 105319_140354). The funding bodies had no role in the design and conduct of the study; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Ethics approval

This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the canton of Vaud.

Ethical responsibilities of authors

The manuscript has not been published elsewhere for publication or submitted for consideration.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Authors’ contributions

Claire Piguet ( conceptualized and designed the study; coordinated data collection; acquired, analyzed, and interpreted the data; drafted and revised the manuscript; and approved the final version of the manuscript as submitted. André Berchtold ( conceptualized and designed the study, obtained funding, analyzed and interpreted the data, critically revised the manuscript, and approved the final version of the manuscript as submitted. Christina Akre ( conceptualized and designed the study, coordinated data collection, critically revised the manuscript, and approved the final version of the manuscript as submitted. Joan-Carles Surís ( conceptualized and designed the study; obtained funding; acquired, analyzed, and interpreted the data; critically revised the manuscript; and approved the final version of the manuscript as submitted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Piguet
    • 1
  • André Berchtold
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christina Akre
    • 1
  • Joan-Carles Suris
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group on Adolescent Health (GRSA), Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP)Lausanne University HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.LIVESUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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