The aim of the study is to examine the relationships between early adolescents' low effortful control, middle adolescents' internalizing problems and late adolescents' Internet abuse, focusing on the mediating role that middle adolescents' internalizing problems may play in the relationship between early adolescents' low effortful control and late adolescents' Internet abuse. The study followed a sample of 482 adolescents (245 boys and 237 girls) from early adolescence (wave 1; mean age = 14.76, SD = 0.63), through middle adolescence (wave 2; mean age = 15.77, SD = 0.61), to late adolescence (wave 3; mean age = 17.88, SD = 0.57). The participants completed self-report questionnaires on temperament in wave 1 and on internalizing problems and Internet abuse in all three waves. Data from the mediation model showed that internalizing problems in middle adolescence mediated the relationship between low effortful control in early adolescence and Internet abuse in late adolescence.
Internet use is prevalent across the world, especially in adolescence (Moreno et al., 2011; Stavropoulos, Griffiths, Burleigh, Kuss, Doh, & Gomez, 2018; Yellowlees & Marks, 2007). Indeed, Internet use today is not just indispensable but also inviting for children and adolescents. Various features make the Internet engaging, including its easy accessibility, suitability, and anonymity; these help to make Internet use one of the most popular leisure activities among adolescents in Western societies (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Ruggieri & Boca, 2013; Van Rooij & Van den Eijnden, 2007). According to UNICEF (2017), more than 175,000 children and adolescents connect to the Internet for the first time every day. Globally, 1/3 of Internet users are children, and adolescents represent the most connected age group, with 71% of them being online, compared to 48% of the total population. Adolescents today use many devices to access the Internet (computers, iPads, cell phones), and very often they simultaneously use more than one device, bringing daily total media exposure time to 11.5 hours, with over 90% now using social media, day and night (Woods & Scott, 2016). As highlighted by Giedd (2012), the amount of time this new technology has taken to be used by millions of people is unprecedented: 38 years for radio, 20 years for the telephone, 13 years for television (TV), 4 years for the World Wide Web, 3.6 years for Facebook, 3 years for Twitter, 2 years for iPads, and only 88 days for Google.