Adolescents nowadays spend much time communicating via social networks. Recent investigations also report a noticeable proportion showing a problematic usage behavior, underlining the importance of better understanding its development and maintenance in young individuals. Theoretical views on Internet-use disorders assume that specific predispositions and needs can contribute to addictive behaviors in interaction with further aspects including Internet-related cognitive biases. This study focuses on vulnerable individuals due to their age and investigates interactions between possible risk (need to belong, NTB) and protective factors (online self-regulative competences, OSRC). Participants (N = 466) between 10 and 17 years answered questionnaires assessing social-networks-use disorder symptoms, NTB, and OSRC. Moderated regression analysis revealed significant effects of age, NTB, and OSRC. Three-way interaction was also significant (potentially mainly caused by females), with highest social-networks-use disorder symptoms found for individuals with high NTB and low OSRC, especially when older. With high OSRC, symptoms were significantly lower for both younger and older individuals having high NTB. However, even if NTB was low, older individuals showed high social-networks-use disorder symptoms if their OSRC were low. The results highlight the importance of improving specific competences to prevent problematic usage behaviors, which should be considered in youth-tailored prevention and intervention programs.
Keywords: behavioral addiction; internet addiction; protective competences; self-regulation; social media use; social needs; social networking sites; social-networks-use disorder.