An Empirical Study of Problematic Internet Use and Self-Esteem

An Empirical Study of Problematic Internet Use and Self-Esteem

Laura Widyanto (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Mark Griffiths (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1858-9.ch006
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Previous research has alluded to the existence of a relationship between self-esteem and problematic Internet use. The main aim of the study was to examine the relationship between problematic Internet use and a number of distinct demographic, behavioural, and psychosocial variables. Using an online survey, a self-selected sample comprising 1,467 Internet users participated in the study. The survey comprised 50 questions including validated scales for both self-esteem (Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale) and problematic Internet use (Internet Related Problem Scale; IPRS) in addition to demographic information. Based on previous literature, it was hypothesized that problematic Internet users were more likely than non-problematic Internet users to post low self-esteem scores. Results showed that self-esteem was strongly and negatively associated with IRPS. Also, for those with high IRPS scores, participation in online forums was the primary online activity followed by online gaming and chatting. Although the study comprised a self-selecting sample and utilized self-report, the results appear to provide robust evidence of an association between self-esteem and problematic Internet use mirroring prior research in the area.
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Research into problematic Internet use, Internet addiction, and addictions on the Internet has increased over the last decade (Widyanto & Griffiths, 2009). The research literature has no consistent definition of problematic Internet use although all researchers appear to agree that problematic Internet use is associated with negative detrimental effects on behavior and compromises one or more aspects of a person’s life including their personal relationships, health, psychological well-being, job, education, and/or personal hobbies (Griffiths, 2008). Research into various forms of problematic Internet use has examined its relationship to psychosocial health, psychosocial risk factors, and self-esteem/psychological wellbeing.

Problematic Internet Use and Psychosocial Health

There is evidence that those who are social isolates tend to have higher levels of Internet use and problematic outcomes. Caplan has carried out a number of studies in this area. One early study (Caplan, 2002) suggested that a person’s preference for computer-mediated social interaction (as opposed to face-to-face interaction) played a role in the etiology, development, and outcomes of generalized problematic Internet use. Another study (Caplan, 2003) highlighted that psychosocial health predicted levels of preference for online social interaction that also predicted negative outcomes associated with problematic Internet use. The results also indicated that the influence of psychosocial distress on negative outcomes due to Internet use was mediated by preference for online socialization and other symptoms of problematic Internet use. More recently, Caplan (2007) reported that the relationship between loneliness and preference for online social interaction is spurious, and that social anxiety is the confounding variable.

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