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Psychology and Mental Health

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What keeps female problematic internet users busy online? Eur J Pediatr 174: 1053-1059

Author(s): Piguet C, Berchtold A, Akre C, Suris JC

Abstract

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.

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