A Comparative Study of Internet Addiction Between Us and China

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CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR Volume 11, Number 6, 2008 © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0026

Rapid Communication

A Comparative Study of Internet Addiction between the United States and China Lixuan Zhang, Ph.D.,1 Clinton Amos, Ph.D.,1 and William C. McDowell, Ph.D.2

Abstract

This study explored Internet addiction among university students in China and the United States to develop a better understanding of Internet addiction in a cross-national setting. Three hundred fourteen respondents were evaluated on 10 Internet addiction symptoms and five Internet addiction dimensions: negative outcomes, social escape, secretive behavior, virtual intimacy, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. The results indicate that Chinese students experience a higher rate of Internet addiction than their U.S. counterparts. Additionally, gender was found to be significantly related to Internet addiction for both the U.S. and Chinese sample, while Internet experience was found to not be significantly related to Internet addiction. We conclude that Internet addiction may result as an artifact of the stage of Internet adoption within a society.

Introduction

T

HIS REPORT EXAMINES results from a comparative study of Internet addiction between the United States and China. It presents data on indicators of Internet addiction in conjunction with country-of-origin and gender effects. Internet addiction is a growing phenomenon affecting people with varying frequency around the world. Internet addiction is typically characterized by psychomotor agitation, anxiety, craving, and constant online surfing despite negative effects on social and psychological welfare.1 A plethora of literature examines various aspects of Internet addiction, including determinants of Internet addiction,2 the effects of Internet addiction on well-being,3 and Internet addiction treatment.4 However, the literature is void of a crossnational comparison of Internet addiction. We fill that gap by providing a cross-national comparison of Internet addiction between the U.S. and China: two countries at different stages of Internet adoption. Because of the digital divide, the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet have primarily been experienced by people in developed societies. The digital divide refers to the disparity in Internet access between developed and developing countries.5 People in developed countries have a higher quality of life, which is enhanced by the Internet and information technology, while people in developing countries are often plagued by poor economic, political, and in-

formational infrastructures contributing to their lower quality of life. However, as a consequence, people in less developed countries typically have not experienced Internet-related problems. As many nations, like China, begin to experience the urbanizing/industrializing stage of the demographic-transition model (describes the effects of industrialization on a nation’s population; see Kirk6), the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet will have an apparent influence on quality of life. This study has three purposes. First, we compare Internet addiction among U.S. and Chinese students using the Internet addiction instrument developed by Wang.7 Second, we examine the relationships between gender and Internet addiction. Third, we examine the relationship between Internet experience and Internet addiction.

Methodology Participants The sample consisted of 314 students; 171 were U.S. students at a large public university in the southwestern United States, and 143 were Chinese students at a large public university in northern China. For the U.S. sample, 51% were female, and the mean age was 22 years (SD 3.43). For the Chinese sample, 60% were female, and the mean age was 20 years (SD 1.34).

1Hull

2Department

College of Business, Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia. of Management, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

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