Pathological Internet use (PIU) or Internet addiction is becoming an increasingly common issue among adults and adolescents. In China, Internet use among adolescents has increased dramatically in recent years. Therefore, it is important to gauge PIU and understand the mechanisms and factors that lead to PIU in adolescents.
In an attempt to obtain more insight into how PIU develops and what influences PIU in adolescents, Qin-Xue Liu of the Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior at the Ministry of Education in China recently assessed data from over 4,500 school children ranging in age from 12 to 21 years old. The participants were asked about their Internet use, their perceptions of their mothers’ and fathers’ Internet use, and their perceptions of their relationships with their parents individually.
The results revealed that gender had a significant effect on PIU for the participants and also for the perceptions they had of PIU for their parents. First, girls felt their mothers used the Internet more than their fathers. They also reported having better relationships with both parents than the boys did, but especially with their mothers. This suggests that girls are more emotionally involved and in tune with their parents and with mothers; they may have a higher level of trust and disclosure.
For boys and girls, mother-child relationships were stronger and closer than father-child relationships. Some explanations for this could be the fact that mothers are generally more involved in parenting adolescents, are more aware of their children’s emotions than fathers, and are more nurturing.
Liu found that perceived Internet use by the mothers predicted increased PIU for the boys and girls but that a strong father-son relationship decreased this effect for boys. In fact, the girls and the boys both benefited from perceptions of positive father-child relationship.
Although other research suggests that girls are more heavily influenced by their parents’ behaviors than boys, this study suggests when it comes to a father’s influence, the effect is equally powerful for both girls and boys. Liu added, “Fathers need to pay particular attention to the way they interact with their adolescent children, for what adolescents perceive in their relationship significantly affects their behavior and choices.”
Liu, Q.-X., Fang, X.-Y., Zhou, Z.-K., Zhang, J.-T., Deng, L.-Y. (2013). Perceived parent-adolescent relationship, perceived parental online behaviors and pathological Internet use among adolescents: Gender-specific differences. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75642. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075642
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