Objective: To assess the prevalence and demographic and psychological correlates of Internet use as a help-seeking resource for emotional problems in a community sample of adolescents.
Method: A self-report survey was completed by 9th-through 12th-grade students ( = 519) enrolled in health courses in six New York State high schools in the fall/winter of 1999. The relationship between Internet help-seeking behavior and demographic characteristics, hopelessness, functional impairment, and use of various treatment services was examined.
Results: Nearly one fifth (18.2%) of the adolescents sought help on the Internet for emotional problems in the previous year. The proportions of males and females seeking help on the Internet did not significantly differ (15.6% and 20.8%, respectively). Internet help-seekers were significantly more likely than non-help-seekers to score above the clinical threshold on the Columbia Impairment Scale (34% versus 20.6%; chi(2)(1) = 7.4, <.01) or Beck Depression Inventory (16.1% versus 9.1%; chi(2)(1) = 3.8, <.05). These at-risk youths tended to combine Internet help-seeking with other sources of help, rather than substituting it for other resources. More than 20% of Internet help-seekers were dissatisfied with the help they received, and only 14% thought it had helped them very much.
Conclusions: For the Internet to realize its potential as an effective resource for teenagers struggling with emotional problems, further development is needed.