Predicting Dysfunctional Internet Use: The Role of Age, Conscientiousness, and Internet Literacy in Internet Addiction and Cyberbullying

Predicting Dysfunctional Internet Use: The Role of Age, Conscientiousness, and Internet Literacy in Internet Addiction and Cyberbullying

Benjamin Stodt (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany), Elisa Wegmann (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) and Matthias Brand (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7666-2.ch013


Internet addiction (IA) and cyberbullying (CB) represent two examples of dysfunctional Internet use (DIU) which are accompanied by negative consequences. In terms of prevention, the training of technical and reflective skills (Internet literacy) will be discussed with regard to these patterns. This study investigates the role of age, conscientiousness, and Internet literacy on IA symptoms and the participation in CB. Analyses reveal that positive attitudes towards online production and interaction and lower self-regulative skills can be associated with severe IA symptoms. Cyberbullies display less skills in reflecting on Internet content and also prove to have less self-regulative skills. Younger and less conscientious individuals are more likely to use the Internet dysfunctionally. Furthermore, significant correlations between experiences as a cyberbully and IA symptoms were found. In conclusion, the authors suggest that current media/Internet literacy curricula should be complemented by teaching reflective and regulative skills to prevent Internet users from negative consequences.
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Over the past decades, the Internet has grown to be a powerful medium, regularly used by 3.4 billion people (Internet World Stats, 2015), e.g., for purposes of communication, information seeking, and recreation. Certain applications for interpersonal communication, e.g., instant messenger and social network sites, are very popular and frequently used amongst the younger population (van den Eijnden, Meerkerk, Vermulst, Spijkerman, & Engels, 2008). According to Castiglione (2008), the Internet becomes a source of self-medication for younger users, especially to develop their identities or to establish relationships. Even if the Internet is used as a beneficial tool, an abnormal use could be entailed with negative consequences for oneself and others over the long term (Guan & Subrahmanyam, 2009; Livingstone, 2008). Past research indicated a high number of possible risks associated with dysfunctional Internet use (DIU), including intended and unintended experiences e.g., in pornographic or hateful online content, problematic harmful contacts via grooming or harassment as well as privacy risks (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2003; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2008). In the following section, we briefly discuss the phenomena of Internet addiction (IA) and cyberbullying (CB) as two serious problems for adolescents as well as university students (Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014; Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2012; Pontzer, 2009; Rumpf, Meyer, Kreuzer, & John, 2011; Siomos, Dafouli, Braimiotis, Mouzas, & Angelopoulos, 2008; Slonje & Smith, 2008).

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