Prevalence of Internet Addiction and Correlations with Family Factors among South Korean Adolescents

Article excerpt

Over the past two decades, the South Korean government has strongly promoted the establishment of a nationwide Internet network. As a result, by 1999 some 22.4% of South Koreans used the Internet and by 2005, Internet use had more than tripled to 71.9% (National Internet Development Agency of Korea, 2006).

In South Korea more adolescents use the Internet than do any other age group. For these youths, the Internet is not only the most common activity of daily life but also a major recreational activity. By 2005, some 97.3% of South Korean adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 years used the Internet (National Internet Development Agency of Korea, 2006).

Generally, the concept of addiction has been applied to excessive use of the Internet. Young (1999) claimed, "Internet addiction" is a broad term that covers a wide variety of behaviors and impulse control problems. The term adopted in describing this behavior in which some people's involvement can become so intense as to be pathological has varied, including Internet addiction, problematic Internet use, and pathological Internet use (Charlton & Danforth, 2007).

Previous studies have indicated that Internet accessibility is one of the most decisive factors for overuse by college students (Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2000; Anderson, 2001; Lin & Tsai, 2002). When access is free and easy, college students tend to be vulnerable to becoming addicted to the Internet (Kandell, 1998). In South Korea, adolescents have easy Internet access, similar to college students, due to the nationwide Internet infrastructure and may be vulnerable to pathological Internet use.

As elsewhere, problems related to Internet overuse in South Korea include addiction, circulation of undesirable content, dissemination of private information, extreme entertainment-oriented use, grammar problems, diminished vision, and lack of sleep (Song, 1999). The addictive aspect of the Internet is of special interest because it can lead to more serious problems such as mental illness, lying, kleptomania, lessened concentration, lower school grades, poor school attendance, dropping out of school, running away from home, and other family crises (Kim & Kim, 2003).

Despite public and private efforts for preventing and resolving this growing problem in South Korea, most adolescents fail to recognize how detrimental excessive Internet use can be to their physical and mental health.

Previous studies have documented that an adolescent's family environment is highly predictive for adolescent Internet addiction (Young, 1999; Nam, 2002). Moreover, a number of studies in South Korea have found family factors that influence Internet addiction among adolescents. Most studies have focused on the relationships between psychological characteristics and Internet addictions (Yun, 1998; Lee, 2000; Song & Lee, 2002; Choi & Han, 2006) or on the relationships between protective factors such as parenting attitude, communication, and cohesion within families and Internet addiction among adolescents (H. W. Kim, 2001; Cho, 2001; Nam, 2002; Hwang, 2000; Kim & Kim, 2003).

On the other hand, there has been little consideration of relationships between exposure to family violence and Internet addiction among South Korean adolescents. However, previous studies indicated that adolescents exposed to family violence tend to seek relief from the associated tension and stress through such risky behaviors as substance abuse or running away (Kim, 1997; Clark, Lesnick, & Hegedus, 1997; Johnson, Whitbeck, & Hoyt, 2005). In addition, Goldberg (1996) borrowed from substance-dependence criteria of the DSM-IV and defined Internet Addiction Disorder as a behavioral addiction that acts as a coping mechanism. In accord with this definition and prior study results, we predicted that adolescents subjected to family violence would be' more likely to overuse the Internet. …

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