Mediation of Problematic Use in the Relationship Between Types of Internet Use and Subjective Well-Being in Schoolchildren

Gonzalo Donoso, Ferran Casas, Andrés Rubio, Cristian Céspedes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subjective well-being is a broad category of phenomena that includes people’s emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgments of life satisfaction. This research investigates how schoolchildren’s subjective well-being is affected by the different types of technology use, in personal contexts, and, concurrently, whether these effects are different when the use of technology is problematic. The central hypotheses are as follows: (1) the use of the Internet affects the subjective well-being of schoolchildren negatively only when this use is problematic and (2) the effect on subjective well-being is different according to the type of Internet use. To respond to the objectives of the research, a survey was applied to 15-year-old adolescents (2,579 cases), distributed in 330 public schools, beneficiaries of a government program for the delivery of personal computers and Internet for a year. The different uses of the Internet were measured using frequency scales by type of activity (social, recreational, and educational). Problematic use scale measured the perception of negative consequences of the intensity of Internet use on a daily basis. Subjective well-being was measured by the Personal Well-Being Index-School Children (PWI-SC). Subsequently, for analytical purposes, three simple mediation models were created, whose dependent variable was PWI-SC, while its independent variables were Internet use scales differentiated by purpose (social, recreational, and educational) and problematic use as a mediating variable, as well as attributes of the subjects and their social environment, which were incorporated as control variables. The main results show that only if Internet use is expressed as problematic does it negatively affect subjective well-being. On the contrary, when the use of the Internet is not problematic, the effect is positive and even greater than the simple effect (without mediation) between these two variables. This finding is relevant, since it allows us to provide evidence that suggests that, when studying the effect that the intensity of the Internet, firstly, one must consider the mediating effect exerted by the network’s problematic use and, secondly, that not all types of use have the same impact. Therefore, it is useful to enrich the discussion on subjective well-being and social integration of schoolchildren in the digital age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number641178
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021


  • belonging
  • digital divide
  • personal well-being index
  • problematic Internet use
  • subjective well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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