Authors: Leonie Fian; Louis Hibbe; Dorothea König-Teshnizi; Christoph Burger
Objective: As the accessibility and usage of the Internet continue to grow globally, so do the risks of developing problematic Internet use (PIU). Due to their typically unlimited access, flexible schedules and freedom from parental interference, university students have been identified as a group with a particularly high risk for PIU. In order to understand this phenomenon more fully, the present study aims to examine the relative predictive contribution of potential protective and risk factors such as mindfulness, procrastination, and rumination to PIU, while controlling for sex and age.
Methods: For this purpose, a cross-sectional sample of 390 students (54.9% female, M = 24, SD = 2.94 years) at Austrian universities studying 133 different subjects at Bachelor (49.0%), Master (48.0%), and PhD level (3.0%) were recruited. Participants completed self-report paper-pencil measures of procrastination, rumination, mindfulness, and PIU.
Results: A total of 25.4% of the students showed problematic and 3.6% pathological levels of Internet use. All variables included in the hierarchical regression explained 25.8% of variance in PIU. Procrastination (β=.31) and mindfulness (β=-.24) were significant predictors while rumination yielded no significant contribution (β=-.09). Consequently, high procrastination levels and low levels of mindfulness were significant contributing to PIU among the students.
Conclusion: These cross-sectional findings indicate that procrastination may serve as a risk factor, while mindfulness seems to be a protective factor in regard to the development of PIU. As practical implication, the promotion of mindfulness-based techniques and methods to alleviate the tendency to procrastinate (e.g. by means of self-regulation strategies) could be a feasible way to regulate Internet usage in more adaptive terms, although future longitudinal intervention studies are required to corroborate these findings and the underlying causal relations.