J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2018 Feb 13. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000553.
To examine the association between adolescent leisure-time Internet use and social integration in the school context and how this association affects later depressive symptoms among adolescents in Taiwan, using a large nationwide cohort study and the latent growth model (LGM) method.
Data of 3795 students followed from the year 2001 to 2006 in the Taiwan Education Panel Survey were analyzed. Leisure-time Internet use was defined by the hours per week spent on (1) online chatting and (2) online games. School social integration and depressive symptoms were self-reported. We first used an unconditional LGM to estimate the baseline (intercept) and growth (slope) of Internet use. Next, another LGM conditioned with school social integration and depression was conducted.
Approximately 10% of the participants reported engaging in online chatting and/or gaming for more than 20 hours per week. Internet use for online chatting showed an increase over time. School social integration was associated with the baseline amount (coefficient = -0.62, p < 0.001) but not the growth of leisure-time Internet use. The trend of Internet use was positively related to depressive symptoms (coefficient = 0.31, p < 0.05) at Wave 4.
School social integration was initially associated with decreased leisure-time Internet use among adolescents. The growth of Internet use with time was not explainable by school social integration but had adverse impacts on depression. Reinforcing adolescents’ bonding to school may prevent initial leisure-time Internet use. When advising on adolescent Internet use, health care providers should consider their patients’ social networks and mental well-being.