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Unformatted text preview: Social Consequences of the Internet for Adolescents A Decade of Research Patti M. Valkenburg and Jochen Peter Amsterdam School of Communications Research ASCoR, University of Amsterdam ABSTRACT— Adolescents are currently the defining users of the Internet. They spend more time online than adults do, and they use the Internet for social interaction more often than adults do. This article discusses the state of the literature on the consequences of online communication technologies (e.g., instant messaging) for adolescents’ social connectedness and well-being. Whereas several studies in the 1990s suggested that Internet use is detri- mental, recent studies tend to report opposite effects. We first explain why the results of more recent studies diverge from those of earlier studies. Then, we discuss a viable hypothesis to explain the recent findings: the Internet- enhanced self-disclosure hypothesis. Finally, we discuss some contingent factors that may deserve special attention in future research. KEYWORDS— Internet; Internet effects; adolescents; well- being; social competence; social connectedness When online communication technologies, such as e-mail and chat rooms, became popular in the 1990s, several authors be- lieved that these technologies would reduce adolescents’ social connectedness and well-being. Social connectedness refers to adolescents’ relationships with others in their environment (e.g., friends, family members). At the time, it was assumed that (a) the Internet motivates adolescents to form superficial online relationships with strangers that are less beneficial than their real-world relationships (e.g., Nie, 2001) and (b) time spent with online strangers occurs at the expense of time spent with existing relationships (Kraut et al., 1998), so that (c) adolescents’ social connectedness and well-being are reduced (e.g., Kraut et al., 1998). This reduction hypothesis received considerable empirical support in the second half of the 1990s. Several studies in the early years of the Internet, conducted among adolescents and adults, demonstrated that Internet use was negatively related to social connectedness and well-being. For example, a longitu- dinal study by Kraut et al. (1998) showed that Internet use re- duced adolescents’ social connectedness and well-being within a period of 1 year. In addition, Nie (2001) demonstrated that adults who spent more time on the Internet spent less time with friends. Finally, Mesch (2001) found that adolescents who had fewer friends, particularly fewer ‘‘friends who always listened to them,’’ were more likely to be Internet users. However, while these reduction effects were demonstrated consistently in the early stages of Internet adoption, at least two changes in Internet use may render such effects less likely now....
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- Spring '11
- Sociology, social connectedness, Patti M. Valkenburg