Teens Are Finding A Strong Sense Of Community Online

A new report shows that 57 percent of teens have made a friend online.

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We've heard it plenty of times before: The internet can be a breeding ground for vicious cyberbullying. We've even written about it here at Choices. There's no denying that anonymous apps open the door for online cruelty (which is certainly problematic), but there's also a positive side to all of this technology. It may not be talked about as much, but social media can form a really strong bond among teens, as proven in a new study from the Pew Foundation about "Teens, Technology and Friendships."

The study's findings counter the argument that social media makes kids anti-social. The sense of community allows teens to connect with their peers, without even having to leave their house. Lead author Amanda Lenhart says,

"Adults have tended to see time online for teenagers as this frivolous, time-wasting thing that’s just entertainment. But what we found is that it’s crucial for teenagers in forming and maintaining these really important relationships in their lives."

Bonding on the Internet makes sense, since it's not always easy for teens to get to a friend's house. (Perhaps some teens don't yet have a driver's license, and their parents are too busy to drive them.) In fact, only 25 percent of teens, ages 13-17, say they hang out with friends in person daily. Thirty-nine percent interact with friends every few days, but 32 percent say it's even less often.

According to the report, 57 percent of teens have made a friend online. Actually, 29 percent say they've made more than five friends that way. There are numerous ways this can happen: blogging, video games, social networks like Instagram or Twitter. Sometimes a connection forms over something as simple as liking the same singer or sports team.

While we all know the Internet could be a source of online drama, it can also be a great place to foster friendships—as long as teens proceed with caution. Since the report revealed that one in five teens has met up with a virtual pal in-person, it can't hurt to remind them to always meet in a public place and keep you in the loop of where they're going.

For more about teens and technology, check out our "Help! I Can't Put Down My Phone" story!