Using the Internet has become one of the most popular leisure activities among postsecondary students in China. Concern about the large number of students using the Internet has led to an increase in research on the influencing factors of Internet addiction and the negative consequences caused by it. This short-term longitudinal study examined the associations among three dimensions of social support [objective support (OS), subjective support (SS), and support utilization (SU)], loneliness, and the four dimensions of Internet addiction (compulsive Internet use [CIU] & withdrawal from Internet addiction [WIA], tolerance of Internet addiction [TIA], time-management problems [TMPs], and interpersonal and health problems [IHPs]) in a Chinese sample. A total of 169 postsecondary first-year students (88 girls and 81 boys; mean age = 18.31 years) participated in the study. The questionnaire measurements were taken at the beginning of the school year (T1), 6 months later (T2), and 1 year later (T3). Cross-lagged and structural equation modeling analyses indicated that (a) OS (T1) and SU (T1) negatively predicted loneliness (T2); and loneliness (T2) negatively predicted OS (T3) and SU(T3); (b) CIU & WIA (T1) and TMPs (T1) positively predicted loneliness (T2); and loneliness (T2) positively predicted CIU & WIA (T3), TIA (T3), TMP (T3), and IHP (T3); (c) SS (T1) directly affected TIA (T3) and TMP (T3); and (d) loneliness (T2) played a mediating role in the relationships between OS (T1) and CIU (T3), OS (T1) and TMP (T3), OS (T1) and IHP (T3), and SU (T1) and IHP (T3). Finally, interventions for Internet addiction and implications for future studies were discussed.
Internet addiction; interventions; loneliness; longitudinal cross-lagged analysis; social support