Uses of social networks, video games and violent behavior in adolescence among high school students in the Basque Country | BMC Psychology


Adolescence is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood that includes major changes. It refers to a complex process of biopsychosocial maturation involving variables that operate independently of each other: these are biological variables (physiological changes during puberty and brain maturation), psychological variables and social variables . [1]. In other words, adolescence can be defined as the process by which individuals achieve autonomy, responsibility and psychological and social adulthood. [2]. Teenagers may experience individual, social/community, school, peer group and family challenges as they grow [3, 4]. Adolescent risk behaviors are common and are associated with the experimentation inherent in this stage of life, which is a very complex period. [5, 6]. Although the social alarm regularly raised by these risky behaviors is often irrelevant because they disappear as quickly as they appeared [7]we believe it is important to explore the interplay between three behaviors that are becoming increasingly prevalent: antisocial behavior, bullying [8] and misuse of different types of technologies [9,10,11,12].

More specifically, our interest lies in studying the relationship between Internet misuse [13] and social media and participation in antisocial behavior and bullying on the premise that the levels of violence seen in the online world reinforce aggressive and violent behavior in the real world [14]. Academics like Andrews [15] show the existence of profiles based on social indicators that are directly related to the positioning of young people in the online world, which is essential to understand the patterns of interaction and behavior of young people.

Bullying at school and engaging in violent or antisocial behaviors are considered risky behaviors among adolescents. Involvement in these behaviors can be caused by multiple risk factors associated with the adolescent themselves and the microsystems around them [5]. In this article, we explore involvement in social media (internet) and video games, their effect on adolescent behavior, and the association between violent behavior and (ab)use of the internet.

Problems associated with teens’ internet misuse and prioritization of the digital world are on the rise, with many embracing new internet-centric lifestyles [13] as they find it increasingly difficult to separate the online and offline worlds [16]. It is important to study this emerging issue, made all the more complex by its association with other risky behaviors in adolescents.

Research in this area should take an educational approach and include all stakeholders to ensure that a holistic and comprehensive response to the problem can be developed. We will now describe in more detail the behaviors that will be analyzed in this study.

Teen risk behaviors

Misuse of technology

The use of new technologies (ICT) has increased exponentially over the last decade in particular. Technologies designed for communication and obtaining information, such as the Internet and mobile phones, have become particularly popular [17, 18]. Due to their multiple benefits and advantages, these technologies have become an integral part of our daily lives. Nowadays, people use technology to communicate, socialize, find a partner, express their feelings or buy products and services.

ICTs help meet the autonomy needs of adolescents, contributing to the search for new sensations and the establishment of emotional bonds and relationships [19, 20]. Social media allows users to take on an identity that would be unacceptable in the real world, so teens can create a persona and be who they really want to be. Additionally, the Internet [13] offers teens a new way to meet people, build their confidence and self-esteem by fitting into a group and getting emotional support [21,22,23]. As a result, the Internet has become a key site of socialization and has increased the need for constant interaction between teenagers and their peers. [24, 25].

Several research studies, including Copeland et al. [26] agree that social media should be used as a beneficial resource, but that its potential to become a source of risk should not be overlooked. Although the Internet, social media and online games are not negative in themselves, they can become problematic when people use them to deal with daily problems and stressors, such as loneliness and [27, 28] or when used to access inappropriate content, resulting in physical, mental, psychological and social harm [29]while affecting socialization, perceptions of sexual relationships, school performance [30]etc In this regard, Griffiths (quoted in [31]), indicates that clinical criteria can be used to determine a homogeneous alignment between chemical and behavioral dependence and presents the following measurement parameters: prioritization of an activity that dominates the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the individual; mood changes; tolerance; withdrawal symptoms or dissatisfaction when activity levels are reduced; intrapsychic conflict and potential for relapse.

These factors may be associated with participation in other risky behaviors, particularly violence. Studies have shown that participation in computer or video games is linked to aggressive behavior [32]and with a reduction in pro-social behaviors [33]. Moreover, the constant use of Internet influences the loss of control and thus maintains an interference with the daily life of the students. [34] and it should be considered as a new risk factor in research on school violence perpetration [35].

Antisocial behavior and bullying

Antisocial behavior is understood as a series of actions that cause harm to others, often taking the form of aggression, or that violate social norms and violate the rights of others. [36]. Specific behaviors are labeled as antisocial based on a social judgment regarding the seriousness of the acts committed and their divergence from social norms in a particular society.

Classifications, typologies and definitions of bullying have been developed by various researchers [37,38,39,40]who agree that aggressiveness, intent to harm and recurrence are the main characteristics of harassment [41, 42]distinguishing between physical harassment, verbal harassment and relational harassment [36, 37].

In 2015, the term “cyberbullying” was added to thesaurus [39, 43]referring to the use of mobile devices and social media to intimidate a victim unable to fight back [44, 45] Numerous studies have shed light on the consequences of cyberbullying, which often have a lasting effect on victims. [46]including antisocial behavior [47] anxiety, sadness, helplessness, frustration, anger, stress, somatization, isolation, substance abuse, internet addiction, absenteeism, poor school performance, low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide [24, 48].

Participation in violent or criminal acts is linked to social status in secondary schools, since several studies such as Andrews et al. [49] showed. Dominguez and Portela [50] shows that violence is increasingly prevalent among young people on social networks, and gender differences have been observed in many studies [51]. Boys are more frequently involved in aggressive behaviors, while girls are more likely to engage in victimizing behaviors [52, 53]. Both types of behaviors are associated with domination, discrimination and abuse of power, as pointed out by Ortega-Barón et al. [54]. The fact that bullies often remain anonymous in this context also has a huge impact on the victims. Meanwhile, Muñiz et al. [55] argue that violence on social networks is linked to gender and types of use: while girls tend to use the Internet and social networks for utilitarian purposes, boys tend to use them more for entertainment.

According to Cowie [56], victims of cyberbullying suffer from similar psychological issues as victims of traditional bullying, including depression, high levels of social anxiety, and low self-esteem, with a direct impact on their academic performance. Schenk and Fremouw [57] add that victims of cyberbullying are also affected by frustration, stress, anger, difficulty concentrating and sadness, with a small proportion also having suicidal thoughts.


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