Mrs Melina Throuvala

Melina Throuvala is a certified psychologist with clinical experience, and a communications specialist with a 20 year-long work expertise in corporate communications and social responsibility. She is currently a doctoral researcher at Nottingham Trent University, under the supervision of Dr Daria Kuss, Professor Mark Griffiths and Dr Mike Rennoldson. Her scientific interests are behavioural addictions, with prevention of internet addiction for adolescents, and problematic gaming and social media being the focus of her current work.

Problem gaming and social media use: school-based prevention for adolescents

Adolescents’ media use has significantly increased over the past years, as has problematic internet use that for a minority of individuals can potentially lead to a maladaptive behavioural pattern, coined Internet Addiction (IA). Internet Addiction due to its core symptomatology and neurobiological similarity with substance addictions, can have many diverse negative consequences in adolescent life and can be exacerbated due to high comorbidity that may require professional intervention. Prevalence rates for IA (Kuss et al., 2014) and videogame addiction and with IA appearing to be on the rise in recent years (Kaess et al., 2016), it is timely to promote prevention amongst adolescents.

The available literature has ignored this potential of assessing and reaching adolescents for prevention for IA purposes and there is a general lack of evidence-based research that consolidates current scientific knowledge and channels it in the prevention of IA. To address this gap in the literature, a 6-week comprehensive prevention protocol for IA will be designed grounded in psychological theory and practices, current empirical research evidence and actual user views and experiences (students, parents, teachers and experts). The intervention will then be tested for its effectiveness Randomized with a Randomized Controlled Trial. The study will adopt a mixed-methods research design combining both qualitative methods (including focus groups and one-to-one interviews), and quantitative methods (RCT), to achieve the proposed research aims and objectives.

This school-based protocol will potentially offer a tool where the school can: (i) endorse a reflective way of thinking and using internet specific activities (i.e. social media, gaming), (ii) serve as a catalyst for enhanced parent-child communication for online use with less conflict and, (iii) aid the prevention of negative impacts of IA in adolescent life.
Following the study, this programme could potentially be utilized within the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) framework as a prevention tool against IA, potentially influencing and impacting a large number of British adolescents. Literature Review findings, assessed an absence of such programmes in Britain, with the exception of programmes that have an exclusive focus on Internet safety and digital responsibility.

The qualitative exploration has just been completed and is in the process of analysis, employing an Interpretative Phenomenological approach.

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