Objectives: This study investigated the differences between non-excessive, moderately excessive, and highly excessive internet use among adolescents. These differences were explored in terms of personal characteristics, psychological difficulties, environmental factors, and manner of internet use.
Methods: A representative sample was investigated, consisting of 18,709 adolescents aged 11-16 and their parents, from 25 European countries. Excessive internet use was measured using a five item scale covering following factors: salience, conflict, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse and reinstatement. The main data analysis utilised multinomial and binary logistic regression models.
Results: The vast majority of respondents reported no signs of excessive internet use. Moderately excessive users (4.4%) reported higher emotional and behavioural difficulties, but also more sophisticated digital skills and a broader range of online activities. The highly excessive users (1.4%) differed from the non-excessive and moderately excessive users in their preference for online games and in having more difficulties with self-control.
Conclusions: Adolescents who struggle with attention and self-control and who are inclined toward online gaming may be especially vulnerable to the otherwise uncommon phenomenon of excessive internet use.