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Social relational factors of excessive internet use in four European countries

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.

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Funding

This study and the development of a joint comparative dataset was partially supported by the Project FUTURE (GX19-27828X) which is financed by the Czech Science Foundation, and a Grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security’s Proposition 12 S (2016–2017) Escalation Plan against Violence and Abuse (2017–2021). The authors acknowledge the support of members of the EU Kids Online network.

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Authors

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Correspondence to Jakub Mikuška.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. In all countries, the administration of the questionnaire followed base ethical guidelines, adhering to the national rules and conditions. Before the questionnaire was introduced, informed consent of the legal representatives and written or oral consent from the child was obtained.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This article is part of the special issue “Adolescent health in Central and Eastern Europe.

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Mikuška, J., Smahel, D., Dedkova, L. et al. Social relational factors of excessive internet use in four European countries. Int J Public Health 65, 1289–1297 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-020-01484-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-020-01484-2

Keywords

  • Excessive internet use
  • Emotional problems
  • Preference for online social interaction
  • IPARTheory