Social and Psychological Correlates of Internet Use among College Students


This study examines the relationship between frequency of Internet use (and types of use) and several social and psychological variables, alcohol and drug use, and academic achievement among 215 students at an urban, commuter university. Frequency of Internet use was not related to symptoms of depression, but three of the types of use (starting the day on the Internet, visiting news sites, viewing videos) reduced symptoms of depression. Internet use was generally related to more face-to-face interaction, suggesting that Internet use is used to augment rather than replace social interaction. However, the significant relationships between Internet use and quality of relationships with parents and significant others tended to be negative. These results are discussed in relation to “The Rich Get Richer” and the “Social Compensation” approaches. Binge drinking and drug use were related to Internet use that might be used to promote social activities. Visiting a sexually explicit web site was the exception, and suggests it could serve a purpose similar to substance use. Grade point average (GPA) was both positively and negatively associated with specific types of Internet use, but the most surprising finding was a positive association between GPA and visiting sexually explicit sites. This finding is discussed from the perspective of the “challenge hypothesis.” Overall, the findings suggest that the past emphasis in research on Internet addiction may have resulted in a bias toward negative findings.

Internet use; college students; depression; challenge hypothesis; rich-get-richer
Author biographies

Nancy Shields

Author photo Nancy Shields is Associate Professor and Director of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Languages at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has published numerous papers on the topics of wife abuse, marital rape, and community violence. She has also published papers on social psychological issues pertaining to college students, including non-traditional students, engineering students, first generation students, and place-bound students. Her current research includes an on-going study of children and community violence in St. Louis, Missouri and Cape Town, South Africa, and a study of the effects of school and community violence on teachers in both countries.

Jeremy Kane

Author photo Jeremy Kane received his Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology in May 2010 from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He graduated with the highest Latin honors, Summa Cum Laude. His research interest is in the area of Internet use among college students. He plans to pursue an M.A. degree in Sociology in the near future.

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