Study: Teens aren’t completely wasting their time online — they’re making friends

Though parents constantly nag at their kids to stop using social media and to stop playing video games all the dang time, a new Pew report shows that teens are not entirely wasting their time online: They’re building friendships.

Fifty-seven percent of teens, those between 13 and 17 in this study, have made a new friend online, with 29 percent of teens saying they have made more than five new friends online. Of those who  have met a friend online, 64 percent have met someone through social media, and 36 percent through video games. But online friends don’t usually translate to in-person friends, with only 20 percent of teens saying they have met an online friend in real life.

The Internet is not only being used to create new friendships, but also to strengthen current ones. Seventy-six percent of teens are on social media, and of those, 83 percent say social media helps them feel more connected to information about their friends’ lives; 70 percent say they feel better connected to their friends’ feelings; and 68 percent say they’ve received online support through tough times. Eighty-eight percent of teens text their friends at least occasionally, with 55 percent doing so daily. Seventy-nine percent of all teens instant message their friends, with 27 percent saying they do so daily. (I didn’t know teen friendships were so high-maintenance).

Seventy-two percent of teens play video games, with 84 percent of boys doing so, compared to 59 percent of girls. Teen gamers often play video games with friends, with 83 percent playing together in person and 75 percent online. Seventy-eight percent say they feel more connected to friends when they play games with them. In fact, 38 percent of teen boys share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information they exchange when they meet someone they’d like to be friends with.

Only 28 percent of gamer girls use voice chat when gaming online, compared to 71 percent of boys who do. Given the recent events of Gamergate, this isn’t a surprise.

But teens being on social media isn’t all well and good. Eighty-eight percent feel that people tend to share too much information about themselves on social media. Sixty-eight percent say they have experienced drama with their friends on social media. Forty percent feel pressured into posting content that makes them look good, and 39 percent feel pressure to post content that will be popular and get a lot of likes. Fifty-three percent say they’ve seen people posting about events they weren’t invited to. Drama among friends, the feeling of being left out, wanting to create an image of yourself to be popular — social media is quite the enabler of the most teen of teen problems, and 21 percent of teen social media users say they have felt worse about their own lives after seeing what their friends post.

Not that these feelings are exclusive to teens. There have been a number of studies on how the fear of missing out — where users get anxiety when not checking social media or when they see friends posting about a gathering that doesn’t include them — can cause depression among users, even adults.

Finally, teens have not been engulfed by the digital age just yet. The vast majority of teens — 95 percent — still spend time in person with their friends outside of school, and 85 percent say they talk with friends over the phone. Not texting, but actual, real phone conversations. Even I don’t do that.

Photo from Associated Press archives


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  • lol nice SEO manipulation there with the Gamergate drop.

  • hurin

    Most retarded use of gamedropping ever.

    Males and females tend to play different types of games. Quite simply there are far more men than women playing FPS where you need to be able to communicate real time with your team mates.