Special Issue "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".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Giulia Ballarotto
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Guest Editor
Department of Dynamic and Clinical PsychologyLa Sapienza, University of Rome
Interests: developmental psychopathology; intersubjectivity; epigenetics; parental psychopathology; problematic internet use; internalizing/externalizing symptoms
Dr. Silvia Cimino
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Guest Editor
Sapienza – University of Rome, Italy
Interests: developmental psychopathology; eating disorders; parent–infant interactions
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Luca Cerniglia
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Guest Editor
International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, Rome, Italy
Interests: developmental psychopathology; trauma; epigenetics
Special Issues and Collections 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 (6 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
A Reflection on Controversial Literature on Screen Time and Educational Apps Use in 0–5 Years Old Children
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4641; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134641 - 28 Jun 2020
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

Open AccessArticle
Compulsive Internet and Prevalence Substance Use among Spanish Adolescents
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(23), 8747; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17238747 - 25 Nov 2020
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)
Open AccessArticle
Internet Addiction among Young Adult University Students: The Complex Interplay between Family Functioning, Impulsivity, Depression, and Anxiety
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 8231; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218231 - 07 Nov 2020
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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Open AccessArticle
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
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7956; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217956 - 29 Oct 2020
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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Open AccessArticle
Tilt in Online Poker: Loss of Control and Gambling Disorder
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 5013; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145013 - 13 Jul 2020
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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Open AccessArticle
Psychopathological Symptoms and Loneliness in Adult Internet Users: A Contemporary Public Health Concern
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 856; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030856 - 30 Jan 2020
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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