The Circumplex Model and Internet Use Among School-Aged Children in Korea
Methods: Using a sample of 2,152 school-aged children (male=52.9%), two waves of data were studied from the Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey (4th grade). First, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were conducted. Second, structural equation modeling was employed to examine the research model regarding family functioning and Internet use. Next, a latent mean difference score model and t-tests were conducted to investigate how gender differences influence the relationship between family functioning and Internet usage.
Results: The model fit the data well (chi-square=894.029, df=127, CFI=.935, TLI=.922, RMSEA=.053) and significant relationships were found. First, both cohesion and flexibility were positively associated with Internet use for the purposes of building relationships (β=.062, p<.05 and β=.069, p<.05) and learning (β=.109, p<.001 and β=.143, p<.001), and negatively associated with Internet use for playing games (β=-.059, p<.05 and β=-.140, p<.001). Second, Internet use for building relationships (β=.099, p<.001) and playing games (β=.331, p<.001) were positively associated with hours of Internet use, while Internet use for learning (β=-.051, p<.05) was negatively associated with hours of Internet use. Female children had a better level of family functioning than male children. Male children were more likely to use the Internet for playing games and less likely to use the Internet for building relationships and learning than female children. Also, male children used the Internet longer than female children. Significant gender differences were demonstrated in the relationship between communication and flexibility and amount of time using the Internet and using the Internet for learning purposes.
Conclusion and Implications: The findings highlight the importance of family functioning on Internet use among school-aged children. Lower levels of family functioning led to more time using the Internet and was mediated by the purposes of Internet usage. Children who have a lower level of family functioning are more likely to use the Internet for playing games while children who have a higher level of family functioning are more likely to use Internet for learning and building relationships. The findings suggest that parental and community efforts to improve family functioning may prevent Internet overuse or misuse among school-aged children. Also, There is a need to consider gender differences regarding Internet use within the context of policy-making. The findings provide a better understanding of Internet use among school-aged children and contribute to developing guidelines concerning appropriate Internet use for school-aged children.