Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Ryan Atwood

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between teenagers’ use of mobile Internet devices and their involvement in risky digital behaviors, including problematic Internet use, exposure to pornography, and participation in sexting. A crosssectional correlational design using a sample (N = 97) of teens aged 13-18 was used.

Linear regression analyses revealed that teens using smartphones as their primary source of Internet access were most likely to receive sexting requests, while teens using computers to access the Internet were most likely to intentionally view pornography. Additionally, teens who used multiple mobile devices to connect to the Internet and teens who had owned at least one mobile Internet device for longer periods of time were most likely to have higher levels of problematic Internet use.

Contextual factors such as age, gender, family structure, religious commitment, attachment to parents, and parental monitoring of online activities were also examined to determine their relationship to the aforementioned outcomes. Consistent with adolescent developmental trajectories, older teens reported higher rates of pornography exposure and sexting requests, and indicated a greater willingness to participate in sexting. However, younger teens who used smartphones as their primary source of Internet access were just as likely as older teens to have received requests to sext. Males had higher rates of pornography exposure and were more willing than females to send sexual messages to their significant other. Females, on other hand, were asked to sext more frequently. Teens with high levels of religious commitment had the lowest levels of pornography exposure and participation in sexting.

Among the parental variables examined, teens’ attachment to their parents was most significantly related to the studies’ outcomes. Strongly attached teens had lower levels of problematic Internet use, pornography exposure, and participation in sexting than their peers who were not as strongly attached to their parents.

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