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Social networking strengthens boys' friendships

18 December 2012 British Psychological Society (BPS)

Social networking sites (SNSs) may increase the bonds of friendship among 9-13 year old boys.

This is one of the findings of a study by Sally Quinn and Julian Oldmeadow from the University of York that will be published online today, 20 December 2012, in the Society's British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Sally explained: "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 boys aged between 9 - 13 year olds."

443 children (49 per cent boys) from five primary schools and two secondary schools in England completed questionnaires that asked questions such as 'How long have you been using a social networking site to contact your friends in your group?' and 'How often do you use a social networking site to contact your friends in your group?'

Feelings of belonging were measured with questions such as 'I feel the rest of my friendship group accept me' with responses answered on a five-point scale ranging from 'not at all true' to 'really true'. 'The results showed that older boys who used SNSs showed greater feelings of belonging to their friendship group than those who did not use SNSs.

Sally concluded: "Amongst boys of this age friendship groups are characterised by lower levels of self disclosure, acceptance and closeness than those for girls. In the offline world, boys' self disclosure increases at around age 13/14 years, later than that for girls. Our research is consistent with the view that boys may value the online environment as a rehearsal space for self disclosure skills and that SNSs might help those who are less socially mature, with evidence suggesting that those who are socially anxious prefer the online environment for communication."

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