Socioeconomic influence on adolescent problematic internet use through school-related psychosocial factors and pattern of internet use

Tsz Tsun LAI

Research output: ThesisMaster's Theses


Unlike other problem behaviors, the existing scientific literature on adolescent problematic Internet use (PIU) does not provide a comprehensive picture of the possible dynamics between important aspects of life in the shaping of PIU, in spite of the plentiful studies focusing on specific categories of variables. Particularly, how socioeconomic background could exert direct influence or indirect influence through any potential mediators in various environments, such as school and family on PIU was unknown. This absence of a macro-perspective of the problem largely hindered education and public health policy decision making. Without such information, adolescents from particular social strata who require additional assistance to tackle PIU might remain unidentified. Therefore, this study aimed at closing this research gap on the possible dynamics among the relevant important variables in relation to PIU. Based on Problem Behavior Theory, a conceptual model of PIU with three layers of variables, namely socioeconomic variables, school-related psychosocial variables and pattern of Internet use, was formulated. The conceptual model was tested using self-report data from a cross-sectional survey of 744 students from two Hong Kong secondary school. Path analysis was conducted to yield a fitting explanatory model of PIU with the adopted relevant variables. Findings suggested two different potential roles played by socioeconomic background in determining PIU. First, it potentially exerts influence as an antecedent through other intermediary determinants, such as educational stress and relationship with teachers. Specifically, while higher family income and higher father education were found to be risk factors of PIU, a better-educated mother was identified to be a protective factor. Second, it potentially moderates other parts of the mechanism that shapes PIU. In particular, it was found that parental education and family income significantly moderates the association between amount of Internet use and severity of PIU. In summary, findings of this study preliminarily revealed the potential effects of socioeconomic background on PIU as antecedents through various paths of influence and as moderators. Public health policies could accordingly be more focused on adolescents belonging to specific social strata who require additional assistance with regard to PIU. Also, school policies and parenting strategies could be better informed with reference to the relevant psychosocial variables and pattern of Internet use. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • KWAN, Lok Yin, Joyce 關樂言, Supervisor
  • LAM, Tak Ming, Lawrence, Supervisor, External person
  • CHAN, Ka Shing, Kevin 陳家承, Supervisor
Award date15 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Behavioral psychology
  • Social work
  • Public health
  • Web Studies
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (M.Phil.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2016


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