Pew: Web Is Key Friending Tool

If a new Pew Research Center study is any indication, broadband deployment is key to friendship as well as entrepreneurship.

A just-released study of 1,060 teens ages 13-17 found that a majority (57%) had made a friend online, with 29% saying they had made almost a half-dozen friends. Not surprisingly, the majority of those friendships (64%) started on social media sites, though gaming was a big draw for boys.

But like the Las Vegas business community likes to brag about its city, what happens online tends to remain online. Only 20% of online teens said they have met their online friend(s) in person.

The survey found boys were more likely to make online friends than girls (61% to 52%). But girls were more likely to find their friends on social media (78%) than boys (52%). Boys tend to meet their friends gaming (57%), while relatively few girls (13%) do so.

Of course, boys have more opportunities since 84% of boys said they played online games compared to 59% of girls.

“Teens still spend substantial amounts of time with friends in-person, especially at school,” said Amanda Lenhart, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center, who was the lead author of the report. “But mobile phones, social media, and for boys, online video gaming, have become deeply enmeshed in creating and maintaining teen friendships."

In fact, the study found that while only 25% said they interacted in person with their friends on a daily basis, 55% said they did so via texting, 27% said they IM'd friends daily, and 23% said they met up on social media sites.

The study found some downsides to all that sharing.

Among those findings:

  • "88% of teen social media users believe that people share too much information about themselves on social media.
  • 42% of social media-using teens have had someone post things on social media about them that they cannot change or control.
  • 21% of teen social media users report feeling worse about their own life because of what they see from other friends on social media.
  • 40% of teen social media users report feeling pressure to post only content that makes them look good to others.
  • 39% of teens on social media say they feel pressure to post content that will be popular and get lots of comments or likes."
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.