Associations Between Online Friendship and Internet Addiction Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults

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The past decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of youths using the Internet, especially for communicating with peers. Online activity can widen and strengthen the social networks of adolescents and emerging adults (Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2011), but it also increases the risk of Internet addiction. Using a framework derived from Griffiths (2000a), this study examined associations between online friendship and Internet addiction in a representative sample (n = 394) of Czech youths ages 12–26 years (M = 18.58). Three different approaches to friendship were identified: exclusively offline, face-to-face oriented, Internet oriented, on the basis of the relative percentages of online and offline associates in participants' friendship networks. The rate of Internet addiction did not differ by age or gender but was associated with communication styles, hours spent online, and friendship approaches. The study revealed that effects between Internet addiction and approaches to friendship may be reciprocal: Being oriented toward having more online friends, preferring online communication, and spending more time online were related to increased risk of Internet addiction; on the other hand, there is an alternative causal explanation that Internet addiction and preference for online communication conditions young people's tendency to seek friendship from people met online.

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