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Online Friendships Matter as Much as In-Person Ones for Teens

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Daily News.

Although many adults might believe that kids today aren't skilled at real, face-to-face interaction with other humans because of the vast amount of screen time they engage in, a new study shows that they're not missing out on gaining essential interpersonal skills after all.

Teenagers spend a ton of time on their cellphones, texting friends, sending selfies and interacting on social media apps and their parents tend to worry that they're not engaging in enough literal face time with others. New research from the University of California, Irvine, says, however, that teens gain the same personal benefits through these digital practices as face-to-face relationships.

"Increased peer interaction in cyberspace has led to growing concern that today's adolescent friendships are now less intimate and an inadequate substitute for those back in the day that took place in person," Stephanie Reich, the study’s co-author, told Science Daily. "Many contacts between adolescents are mediated through technology and can provide additional opportunities for friends to spend time together, share thoughts and display affection than in offline spaces alone."

In the journal Adolescent Research Review, the researchers discussed the six characteristics of online friendships that they identified — self-disclosure, validation, companionship, instrumental support, conflict and conflict resolution — and the ways they were the same or different from in-person relations.

Digital interactions, they found, had both positive and negative effects.

The study said that online contact enhances friends' feelings of companionship towards one another because their conversation could continue day or night without being bothersome to anyone around them thanks to silent texting and messaging services. Those same platforms for communication provide the teenagers who use them an opportunity to control their emotions and steel themselves before responding to something upsetting in a regrettable way.

On the other hand, the researchers noted that through social media and cyberspace in general, friendships can be damaged by rumors and gossip that spread like wildfire with a simple click.

Source: NY Daily News

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