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Cyber Friendship Helps Teens

By Sarah Klein

Chat rooms have a bad rap. Merely reading the words brings to mind all sorts of Internet-related dangers and concerns, especially in regards to teens and children. But a recent report published in Current Directions in Psychological Science shows that the online chatting teens are doing today represents an entirely different virtual world – one that shows surprising overlap and benefits in real life.

In the early days of using the Internet as a social networking tool, the report explains, far fewer teens had Internet access than they do today. Those teens that did, therefore, spent time talking to and “meeting” strangers, because chances were low that people they knew in real life would also be online.

Now, the number of teens with access to the web has transformed the way they are using technology. Instead of hanging around in chat rooms full of strangers, teens are more likely to be connecting with people they already know – like friends from school, teammates, or coworkers.

Right away, this finding should soothe some worried parents. Teens are not idling online, waiting to be contacted by a stranger on the prowl, but are instead fostering and building relationships that have solid groundings in real-world interactions.

But there’s even better news. The changes in the way teens are using technology – notably the rising popularity of sites like MySpace and Facebook – seem to lead to higher quality friendships, less stress, and greater happiness, according to the report.

Communicating over the Internet allows teens to be more honest about personal issues that they may be too self-conscious to discuss face-to-face. It’s important for them to have friends and peers with whom they feel comfortable discussing these matters, especially during the years when teens may be hesitant to open up to an adult.

It’s easy to lose sight of the benefits of the Internet because we spend so much time critiquing the dangers. But a judgment-free space online for teens to express themselves, ask questions, and build friendships is not something to be overlooked.

Comment by fhebe , posted 10/9/2011, 1:32 AM:

its surely right!!! i actually experienced them...... . . A LOT :)
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