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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : August 07, 2015

Technology enabling teens to find friends, create support networks

For today's teens, making friends online is just a fact of life, according to new research released by the Pew Research Center, with social media and online gaming the most common places to meet.

by Helen Leggatt

While many parents might assume their teens are wasting time online, research from Pew released this week reveals that, for many, the technology is enabling them to forge friendships and support networks.

friends.jpgOf the more than 1,000 U.S. teens (age 13-17) surveyed by Pew, more than half (57%) said they have made a friend online and three in 10 (29%) had a network of more than five friends they had made through the Internet. However, for more than three-quarters (77%), meeting those friends in real-life doesn't happen; just 20% have met those online friends in person and 3% have refused.

Interestingly, boys were found to be more likely to make online friends than girls - 61% versus 52%, and older teens more likely to make online friends. While 60% of those age 15-17 have made a friend online, just 51% of 13-14-year-olds have done so. More than two-thirds (68%) said they had received support via social media platforms during tough or challenging times.

The most common places for making new friends online are social media and gaming. About two-thirds (64%) of teens who have met a friend online say they met via a social networking site. Girls are more likely to meet new friends on social media, such as Facebook or Instagram (78% vs. 52% boys) while boys are more likely to meet friends while playing online games (57% vs. 13% girls). In fact, 38% of all teen boys share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information exchanged when they meet someone they would like to be friends with compared to just 7% of girls.

"Teens still spend substantial amounts of time with friends in-person, especially at school," said Amanda Lenhart, Pew Research Center associate director for research. "But mobile phones, social media and, for boys, online video gaming have become deeply enmeshed in creating and maintaining teen friendships. In many instances, these technologies make teens feel closer and more connected to their friends."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: online gaming, social media, teens

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