Commentary on the HomeNet Study

Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D.

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

In a groundbreaking study of the social and psychological effects of Internet use at home, researchers Robert Kraut, Sara Kiesler and their Carnegie Mellon HomeNet team announced that "people who spend even a few hours a week online experience higher levels of depression and loneliness than they would have if they used the computer network less frequently" (New York Times, August 30, 1998).

For further information on the HomeNet study you can either read the Press Release, a report on the full study or the article published in the American Psychologist.

This conclusion came from tracking the behavior and attitudes of 169 people in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, selected from schools and community groups, who were given a computer, Internet access and training, half over a one-year period and the other half across two years. At beginning and end of the study subjects were asked questions concerning their psychological health (depression and lonliness), the time spent daily with family members and their social interactions. In addition, subjects' use of the Internet was recorded.

By the conclusion of the study, the HomeNet team had found that each additional hour a week on the Internet resulted in an increase of 1% on the depression scale, a reduction of 2.7 people in their social circle and an increase of .4% on the lonliness scale. These changes, although small, were statistically significant.

We have several initial reactions:

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