Don't push my buttons! Emotions and online behavior in adolescence

Datum: 21 augustus 2018

Locatie: Stadscampus, Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Tijdstip: 11 uur

Organisatie / co-organisatie: FSW

Promovendus: Sara Erreygers

Promotor: prof. dr. Heidi Vandebosch (UAntwerpen), prof. dr. Hans De Witte (KUL) & prof. dr. Elfi Baillien (KUL)

Korte beschrijving: PhD defence Sara Erreygers - Department of Communication Studies


Adolescents are avid users of digital technologies. A large body of research on adolescents’ use of digital technologies has documented which devices adolescents use to go online, what adolescents do online, and which risks and opportunities they face in online communication. Further, several studies have uncovered factors related to adolescents’ likelihood to be involved in online phenomena such as cyberbullying. However, far fewer studies have investigated why adolescents become involved in these phenomena. More research is needed to come to a full understanding of the personal and contextual processes underlying online behaviors, and the interaction between these processes. Furthermore, the large majority of research on adolescents’ online behavior has focused on antisocial behavior. In contrast, online prosocial behavior has received much less attention, even though this type of behavior is also common among adolescents online and could be an effective counterweight against online negativity.

This doctoral dissertation aims to address these lacunae in the research on adolescents’ online behavior. Firstly, it aims to explore both the antisocial and prosocial dimensions of adolescents’ online behavior. Secondly, this dissertation turns attention to emotional processes as one of the factors influencing adolescents’ online behavior. These research aims were addressed via a longitudinal survey study and a daily diary study.

This dissertation consists of seven chapters addressing these research aims. First, a methodological chapter describes the development and validation of a measurement instrument for online prosocial behavior. The second chapter examines adolescents’ online prosocial and antisocial behavior and explores the longitudinal associations between these two behaviors. In Chapter 3, the mediating role of anger in the relation between adolescents’ sleep quality and cyberbullying perpetration is examined. Chapter 4 explores the association of positive and negative emotions with online prosocial and antisocial behavior, taking into account adolescents’ use of digital media. In Chapter 5 findings from the daily diary study on the association between happiness and online prosocial behavior in adolescents and their parents are presented. The sixth chapter discusses the moderating role of affective styles (i.e., habitual tendencies of emotion regulation) in the association between experienced events, emotions, and cybervictimization. Finally, chapter 7 examines whether patterns of cybervictimization emerge in adolescents and adults, and links these patterns to emotion regulation strategies.

The findings from this dissertation suggest that adolescents’ online behavior is more often prosocial than antisocial. Further, they show that emotional processes, linked with daily life functioning, appear to be one of the factors that contribute to adolescents’ online prosocial and antisocial behavior. These findings contribute to the literature on adolescents’ online behavior by shedding light on their prosocial online peer interactions and on the emotional processes guiding adolescents’ online behavior. The dissertation concludes with a reflection on the implications of these findings for theory and practice.

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