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Kids Are Making Friends Online, and It’s Okay

smartphone with social media bubbles (like, tweet, friend, share

With about 4.49 billion web pages on the Internet currently, it’s fair to say that the web is a pretty big place, so it’s only natural that strangers might meet online, and become fast friends. Naturally, this has caused parents some anxiety.

And with good reason — the San Diego County District Attorney reports that of the some 45 million children ages 10 through 17 use the Internet, one in five has been sexually solicited; one in four has encountered unwanted pornography; and close to 60% of teens have received an e-mail or instant message from a stranger, half of whom have communicated back.

However, according to a new study, the kids are alright.

The Pew Research Center conducted a national survey of teens between the ages of 13 and 17, and found that more than half (57%) of teens have friends whom they’ve first met online, with 29% of teens saying that they’ve made more than five new friends online. The most common ways that the teens met their friends were by playing online video games and through social media.

The study found that 84% of boys and 59% of girls play online video games. Altogether, 83% of teens polled say that it’s helped them connected to others. What’s interesting, though, is that while a lot of the social aspect of online gaming involves cussing and trash talk, it doesn’t actually hurt the way kids communicate, as 78% said that playing online games helped them connect with friends they already knew, and 52% said that it’s helped them connect with players who were strangers to them.

As for those who make friends through social media, 83% say that they keeping up with their friends’ daily lives through social networks helps them form stronger emotional connections. Even better, a majority of polled teens said that people have reached out to them through social media when going through a difficult time.

In other words, it seems that the schoolyard, homeroom, and hallway are not the only places for kids to make friends anymore. New, digital avenues have opened up ways for kids to make meaningful connections with each others, avenues which they’re taking advantage of.

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