International Collaboration to Address Problematic Internet Use

International Collaboration to Address Problematic Internet Use HU
A pioneering European project involving 22 universities from 14 countries has been launched to mitigate the negative impact of digitalization on the mental health of young people through smart applications. Researchers from the Faculty of Education and Psychology at ELTE participate in the BootStRaP (Boosting Societal Adaptation and Mental Health in a Rapidly Digitalizing Post-Pandemic Europe) project, too.

It is estimated that 10-17% of the world’s population is affected by problematic internet use. Various online activities—such as video gaming, online gambling, viewing pornographic content, and using social networks—and the loss of control over these activities can cause problems for individuals and their families. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognizes gambling disorder, gaming disorder, and compulsive sexual behavior disorder as mental health disorders.

The newly launched international program will support parents, caregivers, teachers, and healthcare professionals in identifying the risks of problematic internet use and understanding the dangers it poses. "We will examine the daily online activities and habits of young people using a mobile application," says Naomi A. Fineberg, the project leader and a professor at the University of Hertfordshire.

Young people in the affected age group will be directly involved in the development of the mobile application as well as in the research process.

Thousands of teenagers across Europe will be recruited through schools to learn how they use the internet and how it relates to their well-being. In Hungary, teachers and students from three schools—ELTE Radnóti Miklós Primary and Secondary School, Deák Diák Music Primary School and Secondary School, and ELTE Bolyai János Primary and Secondary School in Szombathely—are collaborating on the project.

Following the survey, experts will formulate guidelines for healthier internet use and identify how behavioral changes can reduce risks and prevent the development of problematic internet use. "Our goal is to formulate global policy recommendations based on solid scientific evidence to address problematic internet use," emphasizes Jose M. Menchon, the lead researcher of the project's Social and Policy Changes working group.

In Hungary, the project is being implemented with the involvement of researchers from the Institute of Psychology at ELTE's Faculty of Education and Psychology, including Zsolt Demetrovics, Katalin Felvinczi, and Andrea Czakó. "This large-scale European collaboration provides an excellent opportunity to contribute to the development of methods that support healthy internet use among young people," notes Zsolt Demetrovics. "The results will be directly applicable in all participating countries."

The BootStRaP project is supported by the Horizon Europe program, the United Kingdom’s research and innovation program, and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.

Cover imgage: Freepik