The relationship between use of the Internet and social development in adolescence

Erica I Heitner, Pace University

Abstract

Personal use of the Internet has increased dramatically over the past several years, and the number of American households with access to the Internet continues to multiply at a rapid speed. One of the fastest growing segments of Internet users are teenagers. To investigate the impact of this technology on adolescent social development, this study examined the relationship between Internet use and social development using a sample of adolescents. Data was collected by administering an Activities Questionnaire for Students and the Social Withdrawal scale and Social Skills Deficits scales from the Personality Inventory for Youth (PIY) to 104 adolescents in a private school setting. The Activities Questionnaire for Students, a self-report instrument designed by the researcher, was used to measure both frequency and type of Internet use. Frequency of Internet use was assessed by the number of hours typically spent on-line and type of Internet use was determined by considering the level of social involvement required by each of seven specific Internet activities: e-mailing, going to sites on the World Wide Web, participating in Chat Rooms, communicating with others through Instant Messenger, playing single-player on-line games, playing multi-player on-line games, and posting to message boards. Six social development variables were used: social introversion, isolation, and social withdrawal were measured by the Social Withdrawal scale of the PIY, and limited peer status, conflict with peers, and social skills deficits were measured by the Social Skills Deficits scale of the PIY. Pearson product-moment correlations were used to test the relationship between frequency of Internet use and the six social development variables and between type of Internet use and the six social development variables. Results indicated that time spent on the Internet during the weekdays was significantly negatively correlated with limited peer status. Time spent on the World Wide Web was significantly positively correlated with limited peer status and social skills deficits. Time spent on E-mail was significantly positively correlated with limited peer status, social skills deficits, social introversion, and social withdrawal. Time spent in Chat Rooms was significantly positively correlated with limited peer status and social skills deficits. Time spent on Instant Messenger was significantly negatively correlated with limited peer status, social introversion, and social withdrawal. Time spent on Multi-player On-line games was significantly negatively correlated with limited peer status. In addition to calculating the correlations between each specific Internet activity and the social development variables, three categories of Internet use were created for statistical analysis. “Not Social” Internet users primarily surfed the World Wide Web and played single-player on-line games, “Asynchronous social” Internet users primarily communicated with others through e-mail and posted to message boards, and “Synchronous social” Internet users primarily communicated with others through Instant Messenger, participated in Chat Rooms, and played multi-player on-line games. A gender by type of Internet use 2 x 3 ANOVA found a main effect for type of Internet use for limited peer status, social skills deficits, social introversion, and social withdrawal. The results of this investigation can be utilized by school and child-clinical psychologists to identify adolescents who may be experiencing social difficulties. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Erica I Heitner, "The relationship between use of the Internet and social development in adolescence" (January 1, 2002). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3065540.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3065540

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