The relationship of loneliness and social anxiety with children's and adolescents' online communication

Bonetti, Luigi (2009) The relationship of loneliness and social anxiety with children's and adolescents' online communication. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Children and adolescents are now using online communication to form and/or maintain relationships with strangers and/or friends. Relationships in real life are important for children and adolescents in identity formation and general development. However, social relationships can be difficult for those who experience feelings of loneliness and social anxiety. The current study aimed to replicate and extend research conducted by Valkenburg and Peter (2007b), by investigating differences in online communication patterns between children and adolescents with and without selfreported loneliness and social anxiety. Six hundred and twenty-six students aged 10-16 years completed a questionnaire survey about the amount of time they engaged in online communication, the topics they discussed, who they communicated with, and their purposes of online communication. Following Valkenburg and Peter (2007b), loneliness was measured with a shortened version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3) developed by Russell (1996), whereas social anxiety was assessed with a sub-scale of the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (La Greca & Lopez, 1998). The sample was divided into four groups of children and adolescents: 220 were “non-socially anxious and non-lonely”, 139 were “socially anxious but not lonely”, 107 were “lonely but not socially anxious”, and 159 were “lonely and socially anxious”. A one-way ANOVA and chi-square tests were conducted to evaluate the aforementioned differences between these groups. The results indicated that children and adolescents who reported being lonely used online communication differently from those who did not report being lonely. Essentially, the former communicated online more frequently about personal things and intimate topics, but also to compensate for their weak social skills and to meet new people. Further analyses on gender differences within lonely children and adolescents revealed that boys and girls communicated online more frequently with different partners. It was concluded that for these vulnerable individuals online communication may fulfil needs of self-disclosure, identity exploration, and social interactions. However, future longitudinal studies combining a quantitative with a qualitative approach would better address the relationship between Internet use and psychosocial well-being. The findings also suggested the need for further exploration of how such troubled children and adolescents can use the Internet beneficially.

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ID Code: 29140
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Campbell, Marilyn & Gilmore, Linda
Keywords: adolescents, children, friends, Internet, loneliness, motives, online communication, relationships, social anxiety, well-being
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 07 Dec 2009 05:16
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 08:20

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