Hours spent chatting online by the glow of the computer screen doesn't make lonely teens more isolated and unhappy, new research suggests - in fact, it may boost their confidence and self-esteem.
The study flies in the face of previous research and popular notions that a lot of Internet time breeds emotional and social problems, and the results surprised even the researchers.
Maarten Selfhout-van Zalk, a researcher with the youth and society research group at Orebro University in Sweden, says that for teens with few friends and weak friendships, more time spent online is a good thing.
"We found if
they chat more, with strangers specifically, they increase in their
well-being over time," he says. "They gain positive feelings from that;
they actually experience better self-esteem."
He said they expected Internet usage to have detrimental effects on lonely teens who were investing more time in online friendships than real ones. Instead, their research suggests the Internet acts as a social training ground, where such teens can meet people, create support networks and build their confidence and social skills for real-world interactions.
The study is published in the Journal of Adolescence.