Chatting, befriending, and bullying: Adolescent Internet Experiences and Associated Psychosocial Outcomes
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Over the past 10 years, internet use has become an integral part of adolescent socialization. Teenagers use the internet to communicate with known others as well as with strangers. They engage in online entertainment in the form of gaming and surfing the web. While adolescents mainly use the internet to maintain pre-existing friendships, some adolescents make close friendships online. They also encounter negativity online in the form of cyberbullying. Despite the pervasiveness of internet use, relatively little is known about long-term effects of internet activities on adolescent psycho-social adjustment. This group of studies aimed to identify change over time associated with various aspects of internet use. First, the long-term associations between different internet-based activities and adolescent social relationships were identified. Second, the differences between adolescents who form close internet-based friendships and those who do not were examined. Finally, the importance of internet-based bullying was identified. Overall, results suggest that while some internet-based activities are associated with increased positive effects, some internet activities are also associated with negative outcomes over the long term. Having close online friends as part of one’s peer group is associated with negative psychosocial factors. Cyberbullying was identified as a form of bullying that is associated with many important outcomes. The implications of these findings call for an increase in monitoring, involving not only supervision but direct communication, of adolescents’ internet activities, and increased communication in families about internet use.