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Social Networking Helps Teen Boys Bond Better

Update Date: Dec 23, 2012 03:42 AM EST

Social networking sites have gained immense popularity in the last decade and their usage is only increasing by the day. From the elderly to children as young as 8-year-olds, almost everyone has an account on one or the other networking site. Even though these networking sites are popular with almost all age groups, perhaps the age group most hung up on the virtual bonding sites are teenagers.

With the introduction of networking sites, the whole meaning and idea of friendship and "keeping in touch" has changed. While there were times when friends used to write each other letters, decades after finishing school and people used to call each other over telephones, these days it is just way too easy to stay in touch with your friends.  

A new study by researchers from University of York suggests that social networking sites may increase the bonds of friendship in boys between the age group of 9 and 13.

For the study, researchers Sally Quinn and Dr. Julian Oldmeadow from York's Department of Psychology looked at the link between social networking sites (SNSs) and group belonging.

"Previous research has suggested that online communication is associated with increased closeness to friends and friendship quality. We know that children under 13 years of age are increasingly using SNSs but little research has focused on the effects of friendship for this age group. Our study examined links to group belonging for nine to 13-year-olds," lead author of the study and PhD student Sally Quinn said, according to Medical Xpress.

More than 440 children (49 percent boys) from five primary schools and two secondary schools in England were asked to answer questionnaires by researchers. The questionnaires contained questions pertaining to the time from when they have been using networking sites, the frequency of their use to contact their friends, etc.

The researchers assessed the feelings of belongingness among children with responses to statements such as "I feel the rest of my friendship group accept me" on a five-point scale ranging from "not at all true" to "really true".

The analysis of the answers given by the children showed that the feeling of belongingness was stronger among older boys who used networking sites compared to those others who didn't.

"Among nine to 13 year olds, boys' friendship groups are characterised by lower levels of self-disclosure, acceptance and closeness than those of girls. In the offline world, boys' self-disclosure increases at around age 13 to 14 years old, later than that of girls. Our research is consistent with the view that boys may value the online environment as a rehearsal space for self-disclosure skills and social networking sites might help those who are less socially mature, with evidence suggesting that those who are socially anxious prefer the online environment for communication," Quinn added.

The study was published online in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

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