ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (10): 1521-1533.

### The Relationship between Time Spent Online and Internet Addiction among Chinese College Freshmen: A Mediated Moderation Model

ZHANG Jintao1,2; CHEN Chao1; WANG Lingjiao1; LIU Lu3; LIU Feng-e3,4; ZHAO Fengchun4; DENG Linyuan5; FANG Xiaoyi3

1. (1 State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning; 2 Center for Collaboration and Innovation in Brain and Learning Sciences; 3 Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China) (4 Counseling Center, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing 100081, China) (5 Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
• Received:2013-05-17 Published:2014-10-25 Online:2014-10-25
• Contact: FANG Xiaoyi, E-mail: fangxy@bnu.edu.cn

Abstract:

Internet addiction is becoming a worldwide mental health problem, and college students are one of several subgroups most vulnerable to this problem. Empirical studies have found that spent more time online may predict Internet addiction. This result is compatible with the theory of usage and gratification regarding the Internet. However, other empirical studies suggest that this association between time online and Internet addiction is moderated by the extent to which the Internet is used for social interactions. Thus, the first aim of the study was to examine the relationship between Internet addiction and time spent online and to determine whether the ratio of Internet for social use to total Internet use moderated this relationship. Studies have also found that craving for Internet use, which may lead to increased feelings of pleasure and reward when using the Internet, may present a key psychological variable in predicting and maintaining the intensity and degree of Internet addiction. According to the theory of conditioning-based craving, this craving is an unconscious reaction formed by repetitive stimulations that are especially pleasant and rewarding. The second aim of the study was to examine the extent to which Internet craving might mediate the relationship between time spent online and Internet addition. Considering that Internet-based social interactions may be more likely to provide people with pleasure and immediate rewards, we also tested whether the moderating effect of the ratio of Internet social use may be completely or partially mediated by craving for Internet use. A sample of 2250 freshmen was recruited for the study to answer a series of anonymous questionnaires reporting their Internet addiction level, their Internet use status, and their level of Internet use craving. Based on theories of usage and gratification regarding the Internet and conditioning-based models of craving proposed in the literature, a mediated moderation model was constructed in which the ratio of Internet social use moderated the relationship between the time spent online and Internet addiction and this moderated effect of Internet addiction was mediated by the craving of Internet use. The data were analyzed by the Structural Equation Model using the AMOS 17.0 program. Our findings are as follows: (1) students spent 13.58 ± 8.94 hours per week online on average and Internet social use occupied 27.18 ± 18.15% of the total time of Internet use; (2) time spent online, the ratio of Internet social use, and craving for Internet use showed significant positive correlations with the five dimensions of Internet addiction and its total score; (3) time spent online and the ratio of Internet social use directly predicted Internet addiction. The ratio of Internet social use moderated the relationship between time spent online and Internet addiction. That is, subjects with a higher ratio of Internet social use showed significantly higher Internet addiction levels relative to subjects with a lower ratio of Internet social use, and the ability of time spent online to predict Internet addiction was comparatively lower for subjects who had greater social use of the Internet. Additionally, the moderating effect of the ratio of Internet social interaction was partially mediated by craving of Internet use. In summary, this study suggests that future studies of Internet addiction might investigate the type and the craving of people’s Internet use in addition to their time spent online. Our findings provide a theoretical and empirical basis for future work on prevention and intervention efforts relating to Internet addiction.