Problematic Internet use (PIU) in adolescents has been widely conceptualized as heavy Internet use that interferes with life. Although heavy use typically indicates severe PIU, their relationship is not one-to-one. Without interferences to life, mere heavy use does not constitute PIU. Accordingly, the association between them depends on how much disturbance to life is caused. While this might systematically differ by environmental factors, especially peer influences, no previous study was conducted to investigate such interaction. Hence, this study aims to test for the variation in this association in the presence of heavy Internet using peers. A cross-sectional self-administered survey on Internet use pattern was conducted with 723 Hong Kong secondary school students. Class average was used to measure peer normative use. A linear mixed model was constructed to test for interaction between the individual amount of Internet use and class normative use in relation to PIU. Significantly weaker association between a heavy amount of Internet use and PIU was identified with increased peer normative use (β = − 0.24, p < 0.01). Log-likelihood ratio test also confirmed improved goodness-of-fit with the inclusion of the interaction (χ² = 6.67, df = 1, p = 0.010). Findings of this study essentially imply that the presence of heavy Internet using peers might act as a protective factor of PIU for individuals with an increased amount of Internet use. It was speculated that the weaker association is due to reduced psychological problems brought by peer norm conformity. Resources to tackle PIU should, therefore, be focused on other aspects of PIU such as time management issues. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
CitationLai, F. T. T., & Kwan, J. L. Y. (2017). The presence of heavy Internet using peers is protective of the risk of problematic Internet use (PIU) in adolescents when the amount of use increases. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 74-78.
- Normative Internet use
- Problematic Internet use
- Peers' norm
- Linear mixed model