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Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Communication and Informatics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2021) | Viewed by 55345

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Via degli Apuli, 1, 00185 Rome, Italy
Interests: developmental psychopathology; intersubjectivity; epigenetics; parental psychopathology; problematic internet use; internalizing/externalizing symptoms
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Psychology, International Telematic University Uninettuno, 00186 Rome, Italy
Interests: developmental psychopathology; trauma; epigenetics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last decade, there has been an enormous development of new forms of Internet use and communication technology, such as social media, personal computers, mobile phones, and other devices. Adolescents and young adults represent the largest number of users of these different tools, whose main purpose is social interaction and interpersonal communication. However, research has pointed out that some young people tend to use the Internet in an excessive or maladaptive way, especially to manage psychological suffering and negative emotions associated with problematic relationships.

Problematic Use of the Internet (PIU) is a growing problem in modern societies. It is characterized by excessive concerns or impulsive behavior about Internet access that leads to distress. Surveys in the United States and Europe indicated a prevalence of between 1.5% and 8.2%. Cross-sectional studies on patient samples report high comorbidity of Internet addiction with psychiatric disorders. Several factors are predictive of problematic Internet use, including personality traits, alcohol use, depression, and anxiety, and familial factors, both genetic and relational.

This Special Issue is dedicated to the research of scientific papers on the above issues, with particular attention paid to studies that use a biopsychosocial point of view. In particular, the presentation of interdisciplinary work and multi-country collaborative research is encouraged. In particular, studies are encouraged that take into account the epigenetic characteristics of the subjects.

In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, authors are also invited to submit papers addressing the possible effects of Covid-19 on technology use and children's screen time.

This Special Issue will welcome original research articles using different study projects (both longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies), or systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Keywords

  • Problematic internet use
  • Behavioral addiction
  • Adolescents
  • Young adults
  • Biopsychosocial model
  • Epigenetic
  • Effects of Covid-19 on technology use

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 262 KiB  
Editorial
A Reflection on Controversial Literature on Screen Time and Educational Apps Use in 0–5 Years Old Children
by Luca Cerniglia and Silvia Cimino
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4641; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134641 - 28 Jun 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3391
Abstract
Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in screen time and apps usage by children under five years old. The considerable growth in usage by very young children has not corresponded to conclusive and consistent research investigating its possible [...] Read more.
Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in screen time and apps usage by children under five years old. The considerable growth in usage by very young children has not corresponded to conclusive and consistent research investigating its possible benefits and risks. This article proposes a brief overview of recent results in this field, specifically focusing on the use of educational apps and their positive, null, and/or negative outcomes on young children’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. The aim of the present article is to stimulate the development and advancement of evidence-based guidelines that caregivers and educators could adopt to regulate very young children’s engagement with digital technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

23 pages, 464 KiB  
Article
Policy Recommendations for Preventing Problematic Internet Use in Schools: A Qualitative Study of Parental Perspectives
by Melina A. Throuvala, Mark D. Griffiths, Mike Rennoldson and Daria J. Kuss
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(9), 4522; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094522 - 24 Apr 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 5631
Abstract
Parenting in the digital age has been characterized as one of the most challenging tasks of the modern era. Parents are ambivalent about their mediating role. However, problematic aspects of adolescent online use have not been adequately addressed in education. The present study [...] Read more.
Parenting in the digital age has been characterized as one of the most challenging tasks of the modern era. Parents are ambivalent about their mediating role. However, problematic aspects of adolescent online use have not been adequately addressed in education. The present study investigated parental perceptions of intervention needs within schools to prevent excessive/problematic use, enhance parent–child communication, and reduce family conflicts. Nine interviews with parents of adolescents residing in the UK were carried out and analyzed utilizing thematic analysis. Three main themes emerged as parental proposals: (i) schools as digital education providers and prevention hubs, (ii) provision of mental health literacy to raise awareness, resolve ambiguity regarding impacts and mitigate excessive use and impacts, and (iii) psychoeducation and upskilling. The third theme related to impacts from time spent on screens (time displacement), content-related impacts, and context-related impacts. The present study offers recommendations for media literacy during adolescence beyond e-safety (i.e., addressing interpersonal communication problems, privacy vs. disclosure issues), based on parents’ views, and provides new insights for media and emotional health literacy collaboration efforts. Future work should investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of such interventions to support the emotional health of young people and prevent problematic internet use escalation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
18 pages, 4891 KiB  
Article
Hate Speech, Emotions, and Gender Identities: A Study of Social Narratives on Twitter with Trainee Teachers
by Delfín Ortega-Sánchez, Joan Pagès Blanch, Jaime Ibáñez Quintana, Esther Sanz de la Cal and Raquel de la Fuente-Anuncibay
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 4055; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18084055 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3971
Abstract
The objective of this study is, on the one hand, to analyse emotional responses to the construction of hate speech relating to gender identity on Twitter. On the other hand, the objective is to evaluate the capabilities of trainee primary education teachers at [...] Read more.
The objective of this study is, on the one hand, to analyse emotional responses to the construction of hate speech relating to gender identity on Twitter. On the other hand, the objective is to evaluate the capabilities of trainee primary education teachers at constructing alternative counter-narratives to this socially alive issue, surrounding the approval of the Ley de Identidad de Género [Gender Identity Law] in Chile, in 2018. With this two-fold objective in mind, quantitative, descriptive, and inferential analysis and qualitative analysis techniques are all applied. The results inform us of the influence of socially constructed emotions and feelings that are expressed in social narratives. However, the narratives of the participants neither appeared to reach satisfactory levels of reflection on the social issues that stirred their own emotional responses, nor on the conflict between reason and the value judgements that they expressed in the digital debate (counter-narratives). These results point to the need to consider both emotions and feelings, as categories of social analysis, and to reflect on their forms of expression within the framework of education for inclusive democratic citizenship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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13 pages, 862 KiB  
Article
Adolescent Attachment to Parents and Peers and the Use of Instagram: The Mediation Role of Psychopathological Risk
by Giulia Ballarotto, Barbara Volpi and Renata Tambelli
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 3965; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18083965 - 09 Apr 2021
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 4847
Abstract
Several studies have shown an association between adolescents’ attachment relationships and social media use. Instagram is the social media platform most used by teenagers and recent studies have shown an association between Instagram use and increased psychopathological risk. The present study aims to [...] Read more.
Several studies have shown an association between adolescents’ attachment relationships and social media use. Instagram is the social media platform most used by teenagers and recent studies have shown an association between Instagram use and increased psychopathological risk. The present study aims to verify whether psychopathological risk mediates the relationship between an adolescent’s attachment to their parents and peers and their Instagram addiction. N = 372 adolescents are assessed through self-report questionnaires evaluating Instagram addiction, the adolescents’ attachments to parents and peers, and their psychopathological risk. The Bergen Instagram Addiction Scale (BIAS) is developed by adapting the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale. Results show the validity and reliability of the BIAS, confirming a one-factor structure. Findings show that a worse attachment to parents and peers is associated with adolescents’ psychopathological risk, which is associated with Instagram addiction. This finding has important clinical implications. Being able to intervene in adolescents’ relationships with parents and peers and the ways in which adolescents feel in relation to others could allow for a reduction in adolescents’ psychological difficulties, involving reduced Instagram use as a vehicle for the expression of their psychopathological symptoms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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15 pages, 379 KiB  
Article
Adaptation and Psychometric Analysis of the Test of Mobile Phone Dependence—Brief Version in Italian Adolescents
by Rita Cerutti, Fabio Presaghi, Valentina Spensieri, Andrea Fontana and Simone Amendola
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(5), 2612; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052612 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2539
Abstract
Since the diffusion of recent models of mobile phones, anyone with an internet connection can communicate continuously and search for information. This raises some questions about the possible consequences of problematic mobile phone use (PMPU) in a complex life phase such as adolescence. [...] Read more.
Since the diffusion of recent models of mobile phones, anyone with an internet connection can communicate continuously and search for information. This raises some questions about the possible consequences of problematic mobile phone use (PMPU) in a complex life phase such as adolescence. Therefore, we performed a psychometric analysis of the brief version of the Test of Mobile Phone Dependence (TMD) in Italy. The sample comprised 575 Italian adolescents aged 11 to 18 years. Data were collected using the TMD-brief, the Personality Inventory for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Sleep Disturbance Short Form. Regarding test dimensionality, the best-fit measurement model included four factors: “Abstinence”; “Abuse and interference with other activities”; “Tolerance”; and “Lack of control” (Satorra–Bentler χ2 (48) = 185.96, p < 0.01; robust root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.079 (90% confidence interval (CI): 0.067; 0.091); robust TLI = 0.904; robust comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.930). The Italian version of the TMD-brief was found to have good reliability and psychometric properties, and a four-factorial structure. PMPU predicted significant sleep disturbances and this relationship was moderated by clinical personality traits. Findings from this study support the use of the Italian version of the TMD-brief as a screening tool to investigate PMPU in Italian adolescents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
13 pages, 341 KiB  
Article
Well-Being and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on Digital Content in the Time of COVID-19: A Correlational Analysis among University Students
by Ceren Hayran and Lalin Anik
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 1974; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041974 - 18 Feb 2021
Cited by 54 | Viewed by 14032
Abstract
The majority of research on the fear of missing out (FOMO) has focused on understanding how social media posts about attractive unattended experiences taking place in the physical world (e.g., a friend’s vacation) influence individuals’ affective states. With quarantine measures in place, and [...] Read more.
The majority of research on the fear of missing out (FOMO) has focused on understanding how social media posts about attractive unattended experiences taking place in the physical world (e.g., a friend’s vacation) influence individuals’ affective states. With quarantine measures in place, and in the absence of travel and party photos on social media, do individuals feel they are missing out on enjoyable experiences? The current work shows that FOMO has not disappeared during the pandemic, even when socially distancing at home, but has been replaced by feelings towards new online activities (e.g., online concerts, virtual gatherings). As a consequence, we find that FOMO threatens well-being by causing important psychological and health issues, such as sleep deprivation, loss of focus, declined productivity, and finding relief in knowing that others have difficulty keeping up with abundant digital content. Importantly, we find these consequential effects both during the initial (May 2020) and late stages (December 2020) of the pandemic. With excessive Internet use and virtual FOMO likely to be a continuing reality of life, questions remain as to how one can refrain from its negative effects and stay healthy during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic era. We discuss remedies and suggest new research avenues that may help elevate the negative consequences of FOMO on well-being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
14 pages, 365 KiB  
Article
Compulsive Internet and Prevalence Substance Use among Spanish Adolescents
by Sonia Fernández-Aliseda, Angel Belzunegui-Eraso, Inma Pastor-Gosálbez and Francesc Valls-Fonayet
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(23), 8747; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17238747 - 25 Nov 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3083
Abstract
This paper analyses compulsive Internet use among Spanish adolescents as measured by the Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS) of the ESTUDES 2016 survey (national survey on drug use in secondary schools), which was recently added to the statistical programme of the Spanish National [...] Read more.
This paper analyses compulsive Internet use among Spanish adolescents as measured by the Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS) of the ESTUDES 2016 survey (national survey on drug use in secondary schools), which was recently added to the statistical programme of the Spanish National Plan on Drugs. We examined two subsamples of Spanish adolescents (those who suffer from compulsive Internet use and those who do not) while taking into account gender and age. Our general hypothesis was that adolescents who suffer from compulsive Internet use have a greater prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sedative, and new substance consumption as well as a greater prevalence of modes of consumption such as getting drunk, drinking with friends in public places (botellón), and binge drinking. While our results confirm these assumptions, they also suggest that gender and age play an ambivalent role in these associations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
15 pages, 614 KiB  
Article
Internet Addiction among Young Adult University Students: The Complex Interplay between Family Functioning, Impulsivity, Depression, and Anxiety
by Eleonora Marzilli, Luca Cerniglia, Giulia Ballarotto and Silvia Cimino
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8231; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218231 - 07 Nov 2020
Cited by 42 | Viewed by 6238
Abstract
International research has underlined that both interpersonal, self-regulation, and comorbid variables can lead to a higher risk of developing internet addiction (IA) among young adults. To date, no studies have explored the interplay between young adults’ family functioning, impulsivity, and psychopathological difficulties. In [...] Read more.
International research has underlined that both interpersonal, self-regulation, and comorbid variables can lead to a higher risk of developing internet addiction (IA) among young adults. To date, no studies have explored the interplay between young adults’ family functioning, impulsivity, and psychopathological difficulties. In a community sample of 244 young adult university students, this study aims to assess the relationship between young adults’ IA and young adults’ gender, the perception of their family functioning, impulsivity level, and depressive and anxiety symptoms, considering the possible interplay between these variables. The presence and the severity of IA were addressed through the Internet Addiction Test (IAT). Moreover, young adults filled out self-reporting questionnaires, assessing their perception of family functioning and their impulsivity levels and psychopathological symptoms. Results showed no significant association between the youth’s gender and IA. However, moderately addicted young adults were more likely to report poorer quality of family affective involvement and higher attentional impulsivity and depressive problems than other groups. Moreover, young adults’ attentional impulsivity mediated the relationship between family affective involvement and IA. This study provides new evidence on the complex interaction between individuals and interpersonal risk factors involved in IA among young adults, with important implications for the planning of intervention treatments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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11 pages, 842 KiB  
Article
Involvement of DAT1 Gene on Internet Addiction: Cross-Correlations of Methylation Levels in 5′-UTR and 3’-UTR Genotypes, Interact with Impulsivity and Attachment-Driven Quality of Relationships
by Laura De Nardi, Valentina Carpentieri, Esterina Pascale, Mariangela Pucci, Claudio D'Addario, Luca Cerniglia, Walter Adriani and Silvia Cimino
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7956; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217956 - 29 Oct 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3759
Abstract
Internet influences our communication, social and work interactions, entertainment, and many other aspects of life. Even if the original purpose was to simplify our lives, an excessive and/or maladaptive use of it may have negative consequences. The dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene was studied [...] Read more.
Internet influences our communication, social and work interactions, entertainment, and many other aspects of life. Even if the original purpose was to simplify our lives, an excessive and/or maladaptive use of it may have negative consequences. The dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene was studied in relation to addictions, including excessive use of the Internet. The crucial role of DAT1 was previously underlined in modulating emotional aspects, such as affiliative behaviors. The present research follows a new approach based on cross-correlation between (de)methylation levels in couples of CpG loci, as previously shown. We investigated the possible relationships between Internet addiction, impulsivity, quality of attachment, DAT1 genotypes (from the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) poly-morphism), and the dynamics of methylation within the 5’-UTR of the DAT1 gene. From a normative sample of 79 youths, we extrapolated three subgroups a posteriori, i.e., one “vulnerable” with high Internet Addiction Test (IAT) scores (and high Barrat Impulsivity Scale (BIS) scores; n = 9) and two “controls’’ with low BIS scores and 10/10 vs. 9/x genotype (n = 12 each). Controls also had a “secure” attachment pattern, while genotypes and attachment styles were undistinguished in the vulnerable subgroup (none showed overt Internet addiction). We found a strongly positive correlation in all groups between CpG2 and CpG3. An unsuspected relationship between the 3’-UTR genotype and a 5’-UTR intra-motif link was revealed by CpG5–CpG6 comparison. The negative correlation between the CpG3–CpG5 positions was quite significant in the control groups (both with genotype 10/10 and with genotype 9/x), whereas a tendency toward positive correlation emerged within the high IAT group. In conclusion, future attention shall be focused on the intra- and inter-motif interactions of methylation on the CpG island at the 5′-UTR of DAT1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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14 pages, 1021 KiB  
Article
Tilt in Online Poker: Loss of Control and Gambling Disorder
by Axelle Moreau, Émeline Chauchard, Serge Sévigny and Isabelle Giroux
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5013; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145013 - 13 Jul 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3564
Abstract
Online poker is a form of gambling where an element of skill may influence the outcome of the game. ‘Tilt’ in poker describes an episode during which the player can no longer control their game by rational decisions. It leads to a loss [...] Read more.
Online poker is a form of gambling where an element of skill may influence the outcome of the game. ‘Tilt’ in poker describes an episode during which the player can no longer control their game by rational decisions. It leads to a loss of control over the game, a loss of emotional regulation, higher cognitive distortion, and a loss of money. This phenomenon, experienced by most players, could be the gateway to excessive gambling. The aim of this study was to assess the links between the frequency of tilt episodes, cognitive distortion, anxiety, depression, sensation seeking and excessive online poker gambling. Our sample is composed of 291 online poker players, with a mean age of 33.8 years (SD = 10.6). Participants completed an online self-assessment questionnaire, measuring the frequency of tilt episodes, cognitive distortion, anxiety, depression and impulsivity. The findings indicated that the frequency of tilt episodes and cognitive distortion were the only significant predictors of excessive online gambling (respectively, r = 0.49 and r = 0.20). Tilt frequency and cognitive distortion were strongly correlated (GRCS, r = 0.60), moderate to low correlations were found for tilt and anxiety (HADS, r = 0.40), and positive and negative urgency (UPPS, r = 0.27). To date, tilt has seldom been studied, and could improve our understanding of online poker gamblers. It could be a new means of identifying at risk gamblers, and thus facilitating preventive measures specifically adapted to this population. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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17 pages, 396 KiB  
Article
Psychopathological Symptoms and Loneliness in Adult Internet Users: A Contemporary Public Health Concern
by Ângela Leite, Ana Ramires, Susana Amorim, Hélder Fernando Pedrosa e Sousa, Diogo Guedes Vidal and Maria Alzira Pimenta Dinis
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 856; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030856 - 30 Jan 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3081
Abstract
There are different concepts that translate abusive Internet use. Almost all these concepts converge on excessive time spent online, which can trigger the emergence of problematic situations. Most of the studies reported in the literature, both nationally and internationally, focused on a young [...] Read more.
There are different concepts that translate abusive Internet use. Almost all these concepts converge on excessive time spent online, which can trigger the emergence of problematic situations. Most of the studies reported in the literature, both nationally and internationally, focused on a young population and found negative consequences of this Internet misuse. The objective of this study consists of associating the time spent using the Internet—in years, times per week, and hours per day—with psychopathological symptoms, as well as assessing the perception of loneliness, in an adult Portuguese population. A quantitative approach, based on a survey application, was conducted in a convenience sample composed by 418 participants (64.4% female), with a mean age of 29.9 years old (SD = 9.26), ranging from 18 to 73 years. The results suggest that maladaptive patterns of Internet use found in young people seem to be replicated in the adult population. A relationship between time spent on the Internet and psychopathological symptoms, and an association between loneliness and the number of hours spent on the Internet, were also identified. In an individualized and disconnected offline world, Internet impact in individuals’ well-being results must be highlighted, since it should be understood as a public health issue. The novelty of this study lies in the target population: Portuguese Internet users over 18 years of age, for which there is no specific study on the subject, thus emphasizing the transverse nature of the problem. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Problematic Internet Use: A Biopsychosocial Model)
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