Youths' Use of Social Networking Reflects Their Face-to-Face Interactions

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Youths' Use of Social Networking Reflects Their Face-to-Face Interactions

Simply stated, new research suggests that socially well-adapted young people with positive relationships are more likely to use social networking websites (like Facebook) to further enhance the relationships they already have. On the flip side, young people with behavior problems and difficulty making friends are more likely to use social networking in a negative, or aggressive way, or steer clear of social networking altogether.

Though parents often have concerns about letting their teens use social media Web sites like Facebook and MySpace, a new study by University of Virginia psychologists suggests that well-adapted youth with positive friendships will use these sites to further enhance the positive relationships they already have.

However, they warn, teens who have behavioral problems and difficulty making friends, or who are depressed, may be more inclined to use social media in negative and sometimes aggressive ways, or not to use such sites at all.

The study appears in the January issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.

"We're finding that the interactions young adults are having on their Facebook and MySpace pages are more similar to than different from the interactions they have in their face-to-face relationships," said U.Va. psychology professor Amori Yee Mikami, the study's lead author. "So parents of well-adjusted teens may have little to worry about regarding the way their children behave when using social media. It's likely to be similar positive behavior."

However, Mikami warns, teens with behavioral problems or who have difficulty maintaining positive friendships may be more likely to use social media sites in negative ways, just as they may behave negatively in their face-to-face relationships. Negative use of the sites would include using excessive profanity, making hostile remarks or aggressive gestures, or posting nude photographs of themselves or others. They also have fewer supportive relationships with their Facebook and MySpace friends. But this group also is less inclined to use social media at all.

Source: Science Daily