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CompuLsIve Computer use and Knowledge needs in Belgium: A multimethod approach (CLICK)

Research project DR/64 (Research action DR)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  KLEIN Annabelle - Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013
  • Prof. dr.  MINOTTE Pascal - Institut Wallon pour la Santé Mentale ASBL (IWSM)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013
  • Prof. dr.  DE COCK Rozane - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013
  • Dr.  MEERKERK Gert-Jan - Inst. Onderzoek naar Leefwijzen & Verslaving - Rotterdam (IVO)
    Not-financed foreign partner
    Duration: 1/2/2012-31/7/2013

Description :

Since the middle of the nineties many neologisms and expressions have been created to describe the excessive use of computers and the internet. This phenomenon has been referred to as computer (cyber)dependency, addiction, abusive use, compulsive use, pathological use, and obsessive passion among others. The research team has chosen the concept of Compulsive Internet Use (henceforth CIU) while being well aware of the importance of CIU as a complex phenomenon and keeping in mind the possibility of fine-tuning the concept throughout the research process. Consistent with this, the research team will also consider issues in Compulsive Computer Use (e.g., PC- and console-based videogames) (henceforth CCU) in order to integrate offline uses into the research.

So far, no large-scale studies yielding epidemiologic data on CIU/CCU have been conducted in Belgium. For this reason, a better understanding of this issue in terms of both quantitative and qualitative data is crucial to build suitable public health policies concerned with and adapted to CIU/CCU prevention and healing. To do so, the research team put forward a mixed methods approach aimed at integrating quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis for the whole country.


The research set-up constructed with different partners meets the following requirements:

1. To start from previous research in neighboring countries (e.g., the Netherlands) so that we can both benefit from data and measurement scales in order to conduct a large scale and in depth research in Belgium, and validate and improve the scales in another settings and language (French and Flemish).

2. To work in close collaboration with specialized partners in the counseling and healing field who are dealing with issues of CIU/CCU in Flanders and Wallonia.

3. To ensure a coherent research set-up that runs parallel in both the North and the South of the country.

4. To provide recommendations for a mental health policy concerned with anticipating and taking care of possible growing problems related with CIU/CCU in the near future.


The methodological strategy selected for this project consists in a mixed methods approach integrating quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. The quantitative data collection and analysis will allow the research team both to determine the prevalence of CIU and CCU in Belgium (including both the Flemish- and French-speaking communities) and to specify the socio-demographic characteristics of the group affected by such issues. The quantitative approach will be twofold:

1) A paper-and-pencil- survey spread among a representative sample of secondary schools throughout Flanders and Wallonia. Schools of the four different types of schooling in Belgium (ASO, TSO, KSO, BSO: general schooling, technical training, professional training and art education) will be included in the sample. Youngsters of the first, second, and third degree (that is, mean ages of 12-17) will be recruited for the study (N= approximately 600) to look for developmental changes related to CIU and CCU. A standardized written survey based on pre-tests and therefore tailor-made and comprehensible for the age group of 12 to 17 will be developed.

2) An online survey spread among a representative sample (panel) of the Belgian population of 18 years and older (N= approximately 1000). In the selection of the sample, the variable region (Flanders/Wallonia), age, gender, and education will be quoted according to the exact proportion in the general population. By correcting for the proportion of Belgian people that are not online, an estimation of the extent of people that suffer from CIU/CCU can be made. Analysis of the survey data will allow the researchers to indicate the characteristics of the subgroup that scores high on the CIU/CCU scales. All questionnaires will be spread in Flemish and French.

The qualitative approach will be based on the method of life story/in depth interviews through which researchers will examine the complexity and variety of CIU/CCU (for instance making a distinction between what is related to mere excessive exposure to and use of computer/internet (which would call for an educative response) and what is related to a deeper and more problematic use of the internet and computers (and therefore needs a curative response). This qualitative method will afford a deeper insight into the long and winding track followed by people with CIU/CCU before their computer/internet use became problematic. It will also allow researchers to frame social, psychological, and family conditions as either risky or protective factors of these compulsive uses. Researchers' close collaboration with a network of practitioners and their therapeutic approach will provide indispensable insight into these aspects. The life story method will also helpful to articulate the precise links between respondents' offline and online life and their reciprocal impacts.

Expected Outcomes:

Within the 18 months the researchers' objectives are:

- To offer a synthesis of the international scientific literature on CIU/CCU
- To present an overview of the existing Belgian supply for prevention as well as curative care related to CIU/CCU
- To provide an overview of the type of approaches used in other countries comparable to Belgium
- To estimate the amount of people that suffers from CIU/CCU in Belgium and their sociodemographic characteristics.
- To complement and deepen the quantitative analysis with the aid of qualitative in depth data
- To provide mental health policy recommendations and suitable ways to deal with CIU/CCU issues.

Members of the follow-up committee

MALLIET Steven - Universiteit Antwerpen
De SCHUTTER Bob - Hogeschool Leuven
BOONEN Huub - CAD Limburg (het centrum voor alcohol- en andere drugsverslavingen)
RASKIN Kathleen - Vereniging voor Alcohol en andere Drugproblemen vzw (VAD)
DUNGELHOEFF Catherine - Centre Alpha
ZARBO Arnaud - Centre Nadja
MARTIN Thierry - Cabinet de Fadila LAANAN - Ministre de la Culture, de l’Audiovisuel, de la Santé et de l’Égalité des chances
BORRENBERGEN Karel - Organisation des Etablissements de Soins | Organisatie Gezondheidszorgvoorzieningen / Psychosociale Gezondheidszorg/ Soins de Santé Psychosociaux

Documentation :

CLICK - Compulsive Computer use and Knowledge needs in Belgium : a multimethod approach : final report  Klein, Annabelle - De Cock, Rozane - Rosas, Omar  Gent : Academia Press, 2013 (SP2569)
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