Online activities as risk factors for Problematic internet use among students in Bahir Dar University, North West Ethiopia: A hierarchical regression model

PLoS One. 2020 Sep 11;15(9):e0238804. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238804. eCollection 2020.


Background: Problematic internet use (PIU) among youth has become a public health concern. Previous studies identified socio-demographic background risk factors for PIU. The effects of online activities on youth PIU behavior are not well investigated.

Methods: This cross-sectional study assessed the roles of online activities for PIU behavior of undergraduate students in Bahir Dar University, North West Ethiopia. Data were collected from 812 randomly selected regular program students recruited from 10 departments. Respondents completed a pre-tested structured questionnaire. Hierarchical logistic regression models were used for analyses.

Results: The results indicated that social networking (75.5%), entertainment (73.6%), academic works (70.9%), and online gaming (21.6%) are the important online activities students are engaging in the internet. About 33% and 1.8% of students showed symptoms of mild and severe PIU, respectively. Taking online activities into account improved the model explaining PIU behavior of students. Online activities explained 46% of the variance in PIU. Using the internet for social networking (AOR = 7.078; 95% CI: 3.913-12.804) and online gaming (AOR = 2.175; 95% CI: 1.419-3.335) were risk factors for PIU.

Conclusions: The findings revealed that more than a third of the respondents showed symptoms of PIU. Online activities improved the model explaining PIU behavior of students. Thus, university authorities need to be aware of the prevalence of PIU and introduce regulatory mechanisms to limit the usage of potentially addictive online activities and promoting responsible use of the internet.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.