ODREDNICE OVISNOSTI O INTERNETU ZAGREBAČKIH SREDNJOŠKOLACA
[DETERMINANTS OF INTERNET ADDICTION AMONG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN THE CITY OF ZAGREB]
In the last twenty years, technology has become an indispensable part of people’s lives around the world, and at the same time the availability and accessibility of the Internet has been increasing. Children are surrounded by modern technologies from birth, and almost all young people are highly dependent on the Internet during their education. As a result, it is not surprising that there are currently nearly five billion active Internet users in the world and a portion of the population has been developing problems related to excessive Internet use or Internet addiction. Young people, i.e., high school and college students, are continuously cited as a particularly vulnerable group for the development of Internet addiction because they belong to a generation that has grown up with an extraordinary accessibility to modern technologies and for whom the Internet is inseparable from almost all aspects of life. Although prevalence data vary and there is no consensus, findings suggest a slightly higher prevalence of Internet addiction among high school students in Asian countries, where it ranges from 14% to 20%, while in European countries it ranges from 1% to 5%.
As for individual risk factors for developing Internet addiction, the most significant are younger age of first Internet use, shyness, loneliness, certain personality traits, low self-esteem and self-efficacy, and low self-control. Special emphasis is also placed on the presence of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and problems with maintaining attention. In addition to individual factors, environmental factors, especially family and peer factors, are also important. Family factors include frequent conflicts between parents and between parents and adolescents, inadequate parental control of Internet use, substance abuse and positive attitude of close family members towards it, parents’ mental health issues, and lower level of family functioning. The most important risk factors related to peer relationships are social loneliness, peer pressure, and peer rejection.
The main goals of this study are to gain insight into the characteristics and habits of social networking and video game use among adolescents, to examine the prevalence of Internet addiction, and to identify possible differences in the characteristics of use and Internet addiction in relation to key personal and sociodemographic characteristics. In addition, the contribution of selected personal characteristics to Internet addiction among adolescents who prefer social networking sites and adolescents who prefer online video games will be examined.
This research was conducted on a probabilistic sample of a total of 825 students from the first to the final grade of different high schools (three- and four-year vocational schools and grammar schools) from the City of Zagreb. This type of sampling allows us to generalize the results of the sample to the population of high school students in the City of Zagreb. The sample consists of a total of 49.0% boys, 50.7% girls and 0.3% students who did not provide information about their gender, and the participants’ ages ranged from 14 to 20 years (Mage=16.65 years; SDage=1.208).
In order to provide a comprehensive response to the research goals and problems, an extensive battery of measurement instruments was used: (1) Questionnaire on participants' baseline characteristics; (2) Questionnaire on frequency of use of social networks and online video games; (3) Internet Addiction Test (Young, 1998); (4) International Personality Item Pool-20 (Donnellan et al., 2006); (5) Self-Description Questionnaire II (Marsh, 1992); (6) General Self-Efficacy Scale (Schwarzer and Jerusalem, 1995); (7) Hyperactivity - impulsivity - attention Scale (Vulić-Prtorić, 2006); (8) Questionnaire of emotional skills and competence (Takšić, 1998); (9) Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (Lovibond and Lovibond, 1995); (10) Internet Motive Questionnaire for Adolescents (Bischof-Kastner, Kuntsche, and Wolstein, 2014); (11) Social Comparison Scale (Gibbons and Buunk, 1999); (12) Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale (diTommaso and Spinner, 1993).
Prior to the start of this study, the approval of the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences of the University of Zagreb was obtained, as well as the approval of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia with a positive opinion of the Education and Teacher Training Agency. Consent was obtained from the principals of the selected schools, and from the parents of the minors. After obtaining the above consents, the research in the schools began. It was conducted during the second semester of the 2020/2021 school year, using the "pencil and paper" method of self-reporting. The students gave their verbal consent to participate in the research after having been informed about the basic aim of the research, anonymity, and voluntary nature of participation, as well as the possibility to stop filling in the questionnaire at any time.
The results show that the participants of this research use social networks the most, namely Instagram and YouTube. They are followed by Snapchat, which is used slightly less frequently than Instagram and YouTube, and in third place is TikTok. All four types of online video games, Facebook and Pinterest share the "fourth" place, meaning they are used less frequently compared to Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok. Twitter is used the least.
Almost all social networks (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest), are used more often by girls, while only YouTube is used more by men, which points to significant gender differences in social media usage. Gender differences were not found in the use of Facebook and Twitter, which are those social networks that are used the least (almost not at all) by both girls and boys compared to other networks. As for the differences in the frequency of use of online video games, they are significant in favour of young men, i.e., they play them to a greater extent than girls.
Most participants (79%) use the Internet in a way that helps them fulfil their obligations and occasionally provides entertainment without interfering with their daily routine. About 20.1% of adolescents have a moderate level of addiction, while 0.8% of them meet the criteria for a high level of addiction. In other words, one fifth of Zagreb high school students have certain problems related to Internet use, and their daily psychosocial functioning is impaired in almost all areas, such as in interpersonal relationships, academic success, reducing Internet usage, and the like. The results indicate differences in students’ gender and age and the type of secondary schools. It has been found that the prevalence of addiction is higher in girls than in boys. Furthermore, first grade students report the presence of certain symptoms of Internet addiction to a greater extent than older students. As far as the type of secondary schools is concerned, the results have shown that grammar school students express problems related to Internet addiction most often.
Hierarchical regression analysis was performed and significant predictors of Internet addiction among adolescents who predominantly used social networks were found, such as the female gender; lower levels of conscientiousness and self-efficacy; more problems with attention; emotional loneliness; a greater tendency to compare oneself with others; motivation to use the Internet with the aim of social conformity (conformism), mood elevation, and as a coping strategy for stressful life situations; and more intensive use of social networks. Significant predictors of Internet addiction among adolescents who predominantly played online video games were higher levels of attention problems, motivation to use the Internet as a coping strategy for stressful life situations, and more intensive use of online video games.
In conclusion, this study has certainly contributed to the expansion of the body of knowledge in scientific and professional contexts. The characteristics and habits of Internet use among Zagreb high school students were investigated, especially in relation to the frequency and intensity of use of certain online activities. The prevalence of Internet addiction among Zagreb high school students was determined, which allowed comparison of the results with foreign and domestic studies. The correlates of Internet addiction among adolescents depending on the dominant online activity were investigated and the role of certain factors in explaining Internet addiction, which are included but not clearly enough described in the model I- PACE, was described in more detail. The research findings point to the need for changes in the way Internet addiction is measured, with a particular focus on measuring addiction to specific online activities. The findings provide a starting point for the development and implementation of effective prevention and treatment interventions for adolescents.