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Excessive internet use by young Europeans: psychological vulnerability and digital literacy?

Helsper, Ellen Johanna and Smahel, David (2020) Excessive internet use by young Europeans: psychological vulnerability and digital literacy? Information, Communication & Society, 23 (9). 1255 - 1273. ISSN 1369-118X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1563203


This paper combines clinical-psychological and digital literacy frameworks to shed new light on explanations for excessive Internet use (EIU). The combination of these opposing approaches leads to a more comprehensive explanation of intense use with negative outcomes. A survey with a random sample of 18,709 Internet-using children between 11 and 16 years old was carried out in 25 European countries. The study shows that there are interactional and indirect relationships between psychological and digital literacy variables and EIU. Psychologically vulnerable children with higher levels of digital engagement have the most negative outcomes while the least at risk are non-vulnerable children with high levels of literacy (interactional relationship). In reality, psychologically vulnerable children’s risk of negative outcomes is exacerbated by their tendency to spend more time online but countered by their lower literacy levels (contradicting direct and indirect relationships). Among those who are not vulnerable, digital literacy is weakly related to negative outcomes. The implications of these results for future research are that explanations for EIU should incorporate psychological and digital literacy indicators. Practical implications are that clinical psychologists working with EIU should consider digital literacy in developing interventions and that digital inclusion interventions should consider the potential negative impact of increased Internet use on vulnerable young people. This paper’s original contribution lies in showing that whether intense Internet use is related to negative outcomes depends on the psychological characteristics of the child.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2019 11:33
Last Modified: 30 May 2022 23:13

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