College Student’s Internet Addiction and Family Relationships

Study problem

According to Gencer and Koc (2012), global use and access to the internet have been increasing over the decades. Moreover, the development of digital tools has played a major role in enhancing the use of the internet. Cash, Rae, Steel, and Winkler (2012) note that the rate of internet use is higher among adolescents and teenagers compared to older generations. Gencer and Koc (2012) report that there were 1.11 billion internet users in 2007 and the number rose to 2 billion in 2010. This reveals an increasing trend and suggests that the population is slowly becoming digitally literate. Cash et al. (2012) also report that the frequency of Internet Addiction Disorder in the United States is 8.2 percent.

The authors indicate that internet addiction has become a growing social challenge affecting young adults today. Additionally, the disorder has been reported to cause neurological complications and psychological disturbances. Romano, Osborne, Truzoli, and Reed (2013) report that internet addiction has negative effects on people’s lives, and their relationships with family and friends. The authors also note that family functioning is greatly affected by internet addiction as it limits face-to-face communication. Communication is an essential factor in promoting healthy relationships between family members. In this regard, internet addiction among college students is likely to affect healthy relationships with their families.

Significance of the study

As aforementioned, internet addiction has negative implications on the level of communication within the family (Romano, et al., 2013). In this regard, it is necessary to examine the association between internet addiction and family relationships in an effort to devise ways that relationships can be improved. It is vital to undertake scientific studies to determine the correlation between the two factors. The current research will provide educationists and policymakers with critical information that could help them curb the rate of internet addiction among college students. Furthermore, the information will be important for parents to devise ways that can limit the rate of internet use by their children in a bid to improve communication within the family.

Literature review

Pies (2009) defines internet addiction as the incapability of people to regulate their internet use, leading to psychological distress or functional impairment of their daily lives. Additionally, Gencer and Koc (2012) state that internet addiction can be compared to pathological gambling, as it does not involve substance use. It has become a problem in modern society, which has been aggravated by advancement in technology and the availability of smart phones. The authors also note that the use and access of the internet have increased in the past decades. Gencer and Koc (2012) acknowledge that psychologists and educationists have widely revealed that internet addiction is related to physical, social, and psychological problems.

This is because internet addicts tend to lose focus and control over their daily routines. Pies (2009) also indicates that the average college student spends an average of 40 hours a week using the internet. Moreover, the presence of social media sites has been greatly associated with Internet Addiction Disorder. Moreno et al. (2013) indicate that college students have abundant internet access and almost all the students are members of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and Google Plus among others. Moreover, the authors note that most of these students have smartphones and other gadgets that promote internet access. Kuss and Griffiths (2011) indicate that college students have the highest level of access to the internet and use it to send emails, social networking, and undertake academic assignments. However, such trends could easily lead to addiction.

Shields and Kane (2011) acknowledge that past studies have discovered a positive correlation between internet use, loneliness, and stress. The authors refer to this association as the “Internet Paradox” because the internet was created to improve communication, but ends up doing the opposite. Likewise, Gencer and Koc (2012) note that many previous research studies have focused on the negative impacts of internet use. The majority of these studies have found a positive correlation between internet use and anti-social behaviors. Alavi, Maracy, Jannatifard, and Eslami (2011) report that internet addicts are more likely to seek emotional support from social networking sites compared to regular users. In addition, this research indicates that introverts are more likely to be addicted to the internet than extroverts. However, the authors warn that more comprehensive research studies are required to prove these associations. Shields and Kane (2011) report that internet addiction limits the presence of face-to-face communication and is likely to have negative impacts within the family structure. The authors also report that internet addiction is likely to be associated with depression among young users. Conversely, they warn that the relationship between internet addiction and depression could be confounded by other personal factors warranting further research.

In research by Wu et al. (2013), the findings reveal that the lack of proper parental monitoring is likely to lead to internet addiction among young people. Additionally, the authors argue that conflicts between parents and young individuals are likely to result in internet addiction. Specifically, young adults are likely to turn to social networking sites for social and emotional support, when they feel rejected. Gencer and Koc (2012) note that parents should ensure that their children are socially active and limit the amount of time that they spend on social media sites. However, Moreno et al. (2013) argue that such regulations are impossible in the case of college students. In reference to Akhter (2013), internet addiction is associated with a lack of participation in extracurricular activities among undergraduate students. Furthermore, the author reports that the addiction limits face-to-face communication and hence little or no interaction between the undergraduate students and their families. In different research by Shields and Kane (2011), the authors also discovered a positive correlation between internet addiction among young people and interaction with families and friends. Additionally, the authors found out that college students were more interested in promoting their online communications than face-to-face communications.

Kuss and Griffiths (2011) report that young people who are addicted to the internet experience unpleasant physical and emotional issues in its absence. The authors also note that these addicts are highly unlikely to improve on their face-to-face communication in the absence of the internet. According to Zainudin, Din, and Othman (2013), the impact of internet addiction on relationships has been reported to be both positive and negative. The authors argue that internet use could enhance interpersonal relations and promote communication between students and their families. However, Zainudin et al. (2013) also state that internet addiction is more likely to promote communication with peers than families. Moreno et al. (2013) argue that family relations are very important to college students as they promote their well-being. Furthermore, the social support obtained from good relationships with the family is important in the prevention of depression and the promotion of self-esteem. These authors refer to college students as “socially isolated” and hence the need to have close relations with their families and friends.

Gemmill and Peterson (2006) acknowledge that college students are “millennials” since they have been using digital technologies from tender ages. In this view, the authors note that their use of the internet promotes communication and enhances relations with their families. The internet enables them to communicate with families who may be far away and unable to visit regularly. Additionally, the availability of social networks promotes good relations with families. Contrary to this perspective, Moreno et al. (2013) warn that internet addiction among college students affects family duties. The authors also note that being online for more than six hours predisposes these students to internet addiction. Gencer and Koc (2012) argue that the level of addiction is dependent on the type of online activities that young people engage in. Activities such as chatting and online gaming are likely to increase the amount of time that individuals spend on the internet. However, it is important to note that individual characteristics also determine the level of addiction. Despite some authors reporting positive associations between internet addiction and family relations, the majority of the research has reported negative associations.

Objectives and hypotheses

There are four objectives that will be assessed in the current study and they include:

  1. To investigate whether college students are addicted to the internet.
  2. To assess whether the sites visited contribute to internet addiction.
  3. To determine whether there is a correlation between internet use and family relationships.
  4. To establish whether parental monitoring of the students reduces the time spent on the internet.

Additionally, the null hypotheses for the study will be:

  1. The college students are not addicted to the internet (being online for more than six hours in a day will be defined as internet addiction).
  2. The internet sites that the students visit are negatively correlated with addiction.
  3. There is a negative correlation between internet addiction and family relationships.
  4. Parents’ monitoring of the use of the internet is negatively correlated with addiction.

Research methods

Generally, this will be a correlational study examining the relationships between dependent and independent variables. The research will be undertaken among college students and the subjects to participate in the study will be identified through the school administration. There will be three inclusion criteria for participating in the research:

  1. One must consent to participate in the study.
  2. One must be an undergraduate student undertaking any of the courses offered by the college.
  3. One must be randomly selected to participate.

In view of this, the exclusion criteria will be:

  1. Those that refuse to consent to the study.
  2. Students that are not undertaking undergraduate studies in the university.
  3. Students who are not selected to participate after sampling.

In an effort to generalize the findings to all the college students, the sample size will include 100 students. As aforementioned, the computerized list of the students will be obtained from the school administration. Additionally, a simple random sampling technique using the computerized random sample calculator will be applied to select the students to participate in the research. After the selection, the researcher will communicate with the students through their email addresses indicating the purpose of the research and requesting their participation. The students will be given four days to respond to the emails and those that will not respond within the period will be excluded from the research. The random sampling technique will be applied again to replace those excluded. Furthermore, the school administration will assist in sensitizing the students on the importance of the research.

Data collection

The dependent variable for the research will be internet addiction. Various authors have defined internet addiction as being on the internet for more than six hours in a day (Moreno, et al., 2013). There are several questions that will be asked to determine whether these students are addicted to the internet and they include; On average, how many hours do you spend on the internet per day? Do you use the internet during your class time? Do you use the internet during family time? The study will also determine whether the internet sites visited contribute to internet addiction. In this regard, the students will be requested to list the sites that they visit regularly. The researcher will emphasize the confidentiality of the data given by the students to make sure that they give the correct information on the internet sites visited. Demographic characteristics such as age, gender, the course being undertaken, and a number of people in the family will be included as independent variables.

Parent monitoring on the use of the internet while at home will be assessed as an independent variable. A Likert scale will be applied to determine the level of strictness applied by the parents regarding the use of the internet while at home. Specifically, the levels will include; not strict, strict, and very strict. Additionally, the students will be asked whether their parents monitor the sites of internet sites while at home. Family relations will also be assessed as an independent variable. Several questions will be asked to determine whether the family relations are positive or negative. These will include; Are you close with your parents? Are you close to your siblings? (If any), How often do you talk with your family members while at home? How often do you communicate with your family members while in college? If your parents live far from the college, what tools do you use to communicate with them? Have you ever had conflicts with your parents regarding the amount of time you spend on the internet? Do you access the internet during family time? How do your parents respond to your use of the internet? Information on family relations will be correlated with internet addiction patterns.

The current research will apply both qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques. Quantitative data will be collected through the e-mailed questionnaires. Additionally, qualitative data will be collected through a focus group discussion with some of the researcher’s classmates. The focus group discussion will give in-depth opinions on the association between internet addiction and family relationships. Ten classmates will participate in the focus group discussion and the researcher will moderate it. Moreover, the participants will be selected randomly and requested to participate, and it will be held after school hours.

The validity of the questionnaires will be promoted through pilot testing. This will be done before the actual data collection and a random sample of 50 students will be selected to fill the questionnaires with the help of the school administration. The researcher will analyze the questionnaires to determine whether the scales are valid and reliable. The pilot testing phase will also assist in eliminating any redundancy and inconsistency in the questionnaires. The final versions of the questionnaires will be emailed to the 100 respondents that agree to participate in the study.

Ethical considerations

The research will comply with the college’s ethical rules and guidelines. In an effort to uphold the ethical requirements of the research study, the researcher will obtain informed consent from the participants and ensure that the information received is confidential and anonymous. Prior to emailing the questionnaires to the study subjects, the researchers will send an informed consent form outlining the purpose of the research. The participation of the students in the study will be voluntary. Moreover, the participants will have the freedom to withdraw from the study at any time. The researcher will only email the questionnaires upon receipt of the signed consent forms.

The participants will be identified through special codes and no names will appear on the questionnaires and the consent forms. This means that no personal data will be obtained from the students. Consequently, the participants of the focus group discussion will be identified through various codes and no personal data will be collected. Information collected during the qualitative and quantitative data collection phases will be confidential and only accessible to the researcher. These regulations will also apply during the data analysis and the researcher will not report personal information in the final write-up.


Akhter, N. (2013). Relationship between internet addiction and academic performance among university undergraduates. Educational Research and Reviews, 8(19), 1793-1796.

Alavi, S. S., Maracy, M. R., Jannatifard, F., & Eslami, M. (2011). The effect of psychiatric symptoms on internet addiction disorder in Isfahan’s University students. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 16(6), 793–800.

Cash, H., Rae, C. D., Steel, A. H., & Winkler, A. (2012). Internet addiction: A brief summary of research and practice. Current Psychiatry Reviews, 8(5), 292-298.

Gemmill, E., & Peterson, M. (2006). Technology use among college students: Implications for student affairs professionals. NASPA Journal, 43(2), 280-300.

Gencer, S. L., & Koc, M. (2012). Internet abuse among teenagers and its relations to internet usage patterns and demographics. Educational Technology and Society, 15(2), 25–36.

Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction—A review of the psychological literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(12), 3528-3552.

Moreno, M. A., Jelenchick, L. A., Koff, R., Eickhoff, J. C., Goniu, N., Davis, A.,… Christakis, D. A. (2013). Associations between internet use and fitness among college students: an experience sampling approach. Journal of Interaction Science, 1(4), 1-8.

Pies, R. (2009). Should DSM-V Designate “Internet Addiction” a Mental Disorder? Psychiatry (Edgemont), 6(2), 31–37.

Romano, M., Osborne, L. A., Truzoli, R., & Reed, P. (2013). Differential psychological Impact of Internet Exposure on Internet Addicts. PLOS One, 8(2), 1-4.

Shields, N., & Kane, J. (2011). Social and psychological correlates of internet use among college students. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 5(1), 1-5.

Wu, X., Chen, X., Han, J., Meng, H., Luo, J., Nydegger, L., & Wu, H. (2013). Prevalence and factors of addictive internet use among adolescents in Wuhan, China: Interactions of parental relationship with age and hyperactivity-impulsivity. PLOS One, 8(4), 1-8.

Zainudin, A., Din, M. M., & Othman, M. (2013). Impacts due to internet addiction among Malaysian University students. International Journal of Asian Social Science, 3(9), 1922-1928.

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