Document Type

Article

Department

Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date

10-2005

Disciplines

Communication Technology and New Media | Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Medicine and Health Sciences | Science and Technology Studies

Abstract

The World Wide Web (WWW) poses a distinct capability to offer interventions tailored to the individual’s characteristics. To fine tune the tailoring process, studies are needed to explore how Internet accessibility and usage are related to demographic, psychosocial, behavioral, and other health related characteristics. This study was based on a cross-sectional survey conducted on 2373 7th grade students of various ethnic groups in Southern California. Measures of Internet use included Internet use at school or at home, Email use, chat-room use, and Internet favoring. Logistic regressions were conducted to assess the associations between Internet uses with selected demographic, psychosocial, behavioral variables and self-reported health statuses. The proportion of students who could access the Internet at school or home was 90% and 40%, separately. Nearly all (99%) of the respondents could access the Internet either at school or at home. Higher SES and Asian ethnicity were associated with higher internet use. Among those who could access the Internet and after adjusting for the selected demographic and psychosocial variables, depression was positively related with chat-room use and using the Internet longer than 1 hour per day at home, and hostility was positively related with Internet favoring (All ORs = 1.2 for +1 STD, p < 0.05). Less parental monitoring and more unsupervised time were positively related to email use, chat-room use, and at home Internet use (ORs for +1 STD ranged from 1.2 to 2.0, all p < 0.05), but not related to at school Internet use. Substance use was positively related to email use, chat-room use, and at home Internet use (OR for “used” vs. “not used” ranged from 1.2 to 4.0, p < 0.05). Self-reported health problems were associated with higher levels of Internet use at home but lower levels of Internet use at school. More physical activity was related to more email use (OR = 1.3 for +1 STD), chat room use (OR = 1.2 for +1 STD), and at school ever Internet use (OR = 1.2 for +1 STD, all p < 0.05). Body mass index was not related to any of the Internet use-related measures. In this ethnically diverse sample of Southern California 7th grade students, 99% could access the Internet at school and/or at home. This suggests that the Internet is already a potential venue for large scale health communication studies. Adolescents with more psychosocial risk factors or detrimental health behaviors were more likely to use the Internet. Therefore, if used properly, Internet interventions could effectively address the high risk populations. Additional research is needed to gain a more complete understanding of the positive and negative consequences of Internet use among adolescents.

Rights Information

© 2005 Mary Ann Liebert Inc. Posted with permission.