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13 November 2012

Different People, Different Experiences – Teens Talk About Online Friendships And Identity

Keywords: internet, interview, media, mobile, peers, technology, teens, tweens, computer, social media,

Most teens have grown up with new media technologies, such as the internet and mobile phones. It might not be surprising that a lot of them indicate that they can’t live without these new technologies A study in Journal of Adolescence tries to find out what role new media technologies exactly have in young people’s lives, and how these technologies affect friendships and identity.

Take aways

  • Online communication with friends promotes teens’ feelings of belonging to a group.
  • Online communication with friends promotes self-disclosure (e.g. talking about their self) of young adolescents.
  • However, the extent to which young teens feel like they are belonging to a group and talk about their self online,are not the same for everyone.
  • In particular, girls and younger teens are more likely to share personal information online than boys and older teens.

Study information

  • The question?

    What role do new media technologies play in teens’ experiences of friendship and identity?

  • Who?

    32 teens (53% male) with a mean age of 15,5 years old

  • Where?

    Bermuda (British Overseas Territory)

  • How?

    The researcher held face to face interviews with the participants. The interviews took about one hour each. During the conversations, the researcher asked the participants about their use of new technologies, how important they thought social media were, and how social media influences their lives.

Facts and findings

  • The most important reason for participants to use new media technologies was to be able to stay in touch and communicate with friends.
  • Making use of new media technologies gave the sense of belonging to a group.
  • Mobile phones were the most popular online peer communication tool.
  • Some teens were scared to be isolated from their friends when they lost their mobile phone.
  • Facebook was used to stay in touch with acquaintances with whom the teens didn’t really interact in real life.
  • For almost 50% of the teens it’s easier to talk about problems or intimate things online than offline. 
  • Girls were more likely to share personal information online than boys.
  • Younger adolescents were more likely to share personal information online than old(er) adolescents.