Online friendship in teenagers is intimate and similar to offline relationships: Study

Many parents worry about how much time teenagers spend texting, sharing selfies and engaging in other online activities with their friends.

Online friendships in teenagers are just as intimate and have similar characteristics as offline relationships, a study suggests.

Representational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

Many parents worry about how much time teenagers spend texting, sharing selfies and engaging in other online activities with their friends.

However, a study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine in the US, found that many of these digital behaviours serve the same purpose and encompass the same core qualities 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," said Stephanie Reich, from University of California, Irvine.

"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," said Reich.

Researchers identified six core characteristics of offline friendships - self-disclosure, validation, companionship, instrumental support, conflict and conflict resolution - and their digital parallels.

For each quality, they noted ways in which online interfaces corresponded with or differed from in-person communication. The results are detailed in the May issue of Adolescent Research Review.

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