The Overarching Impact of Children’s Internet Addiction on Parents’ Work Performance

VENKATESH, Viswanath | SKYES, Tracy Ann | CHAN, Frank K Y | THONG, James Y L | HU, Paul J.H.

The Internet has had a huge impact on society over the past few decades, and the ever-increasing access to affordable, high-speed connectivity has led to both positive and negative outcomes. One important social aspect of this widely used technology is children becoming addicted to online gaming, social media, web browsing, and so on.

Taking into account the vast number of applications that are targeted towards children and adolescents, young people are at risk of becoming victim to excessive use of the Internet. There are a number of negative consequences that are associated with Internet addiction, such as poor academic performance, social isolation, and aggressive behaviour.

Although the topic of Internet addiction has been widely covered, only a limited amount of research has investigated the influence of external forces from important others (e.g., parents, teachers, and friends) on an individual’s Internet addiction. That said, prior research has noted that parental factors should be taken into consideration with regards to children engaging in addictive behaviours.

A study by Viswanath Venkatesh, Tracy Ann Skyes, Frank K.Y. Chan, James Y.L. Thong, and Paul J.H. Hu suggest that parents can influence their children’s Internet addiction through specific parenting behaviours. Additionally, “given the mutual influences of parents and children on each other’s beliefs and behaviours, we suggest that children’s Internet addiction in the family domain could have a cross-domain influence on parents’ job outcomes”, they explain.

In summary, the researchers set out to examine the role of parenting behaviours in influencing their children’s Internet addiction, as well as the broader consequences of children’s Internet addiction on their parents’ work performance. Attachment theory was used as a framework in this context, in which five key parenting behaviours were identified, namely parental control, monitoring, unstructured time, dissuasion, and rationalization. The researchers also used prior research on work-family interface to examine how children’s Internet addiction may influence parents’ job outcomes.

For the analysis, an online survey that included 776 parent-child dyads was used, along with an interview process to obtain data from the parents to confirm the proposed relationships. Their results showed that the effects of children’s Internet addiction on parents’ job outcomes were mediated by family-to-work conflict. “The interviews suggested that children’s Internet addiction led to an increased burden on parents in the family domain. Due to children’s Internet addiction, parents experienced more stress, spent more time with their children, and got more involved in the family to deal with problems related to their children”, the researchers explain. As such, the parents felt that the extra stress and activities kept them from fully committing to their work.

Their study also revealed the significant interactions between parenting behaviours and the children’s views of parent-child attachment in predicting children’s Internet addiction. More specifically, if the child had good parent-child attachment, parenting behaviours were more effective, which as a result lowered the likelihood of the child becoming addicted to the Internet. These findings are significant in terms of understanding and managing the serious issue of Internet addiction among young people.

THONG, James Y L

Michael Jebsen Professor of Business, Chair Professor
Information Systems, Business Statistics & Operations Management