Problematic Internet use among teenagers in Sfax, Tunisia (2015)

Encephale. 2015 Jun 23. pii: S0013-7006(15)00064-0. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2015.04.001.

[Article in French]

Chérif L1, Ayedi H2, Hadjkacem I2, Khemekhem K2, Khemekhem S2, Walha A2, Kossentini I2, Moalla Y2, Ghribi F2.



Use of the Internet in Tunisian society and especially among teenagers has increased in recent years. While the use of Internet is primarily intended for research and communication, the Internet has also become an important part of teenager’s life. Most people use the Internet in healthy and productive ways. However, some teenagers develop a problematic use of the Internet, which is a condition also known by the term of “Internet addiction”. In Tunisia, the literature does not report data on problematic Internet use prevalence among Tunisian teenagers.


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of problematic Internet use among teenagers, in the urban area of Sfax.


This transversal study was carried out between the 15th January and the 15th February 2009. Participants were 600, first to third grade secondary school students, aged 14 to 20. They were recruited from seven secondary schools randomly selected in the urban area in Sfax City. The self-administered Young’s 8-item questionnaire was used in this survey. Participants who scored five or more can be considered problematic Internet users. Finally, 587 valid data samples were collected, 263 (44%) males and 324 (56%) females. Eighty-five percent of the participants were in the 15-17 age range. The mean age was 16 years (±1.26).


The prevalence of problematic Internet use was 18.05% (total of 587 students). The sex-ratio was 0.75. The problematic Internet use was not correlated with sex. The average time of Internet use per day among problematic Internet users was 4.5hours (±2.84) against 1.02hours (±1.56) among non problematic Internet users (P=0.000).


In this study, the prevalence of problematic Internet use was higher than that reported in previous studies. Two facts can explain this: first, the use of the only self-administered questionnaire does not distinguish between a simple abuse and a problematic Internet use. A psychiatric examination is essential to support the diagnosis of problematic Internet use. Second, this study was conducted exclusively in an urban area where access to the Internet is easier than in rural areas. This study was not representative of teenagers in Sfax. The gender difference was consistent with the findings of prior research, as was the average time of Internet use per day among problematic Internet users.


This study shows that problematic Internet use is frequent in our teenage population. A preventive outreach for youths, their families and health professionals is needed to limit the extension of this problem among young people. The existence of misuse of the Internet should not lead to avoiding this media. Reflections on how to moderate the relationship with the Internet are necessary; especially since Internet becomes an essential medium of information and communication. The current lack of Internet education in school curricula is also a shortage to fulfil.