Methods: A sample of 2,300 adolescents from the two-wave data of Korean Youth Panel Surveys was used. 52.9% of the participants were male and 97.3% of them lived with their parents. As measurement model analyses, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were conducted. As primary analyses, structural equation modeling was first employed to examine the longitudinal model regarding the relationships between social capital and Internet use among Korean adolescents. Next, a latent mean difference score model was tested to check if there are significant differences between male and female in social capital and Internet use. Lastly, in order to investigate the effect of gender on the relationships between social capital on adolescent Internet use, the longitudinal model across gender was examined.
Results: The longitudinal model fit the data well (chi-square=1145.44, p<.000, CFI=.930, TLI=.912, RMSEA=.067) and several significant relationships between social capital and Internet use among Korean adolescents were found. First, family (β=-.054, p<.05) and school (β=-.078, p<.01) social capitals revealed significantly negative impacts on hours of Internet use. Second, family social capital was negatively associated with Internet use for building relationships (β=-.080, p<.01) and Internet use for building relationships increased hours of Internet use (β=.179, p < .01). Third, school social capital was positively associated with Internet use for learning (β=.159, p<.01) and Internet use for learning decreased hours of Internet use (β=-.132 p<.01). Community social capital was not significant in the relationships with purposes and hours of Internet use. Female adolescents had more social capital than male adolescents. Females were more likely to use the Internet for building relationship and learning than males. Only for male adolescents, a significantly positive relationship between community social capital and Internet use for relationships was found.
Conclusion/Implications: The findings highlight the important relationships between social capital and Internet use among Korean adolescents by revealing the causal relationships with the longitudinal data. In particular, lower family and school social capital increased hours of Internet use. Hence, in order to prevent adolescent Internet over use, there is a need to enhance family social capital. Given the findings of this study, future research needs to focus on the impact of social capital on Internet overuse or Internet addiction among adolescents.