Internet Affordances and Teens' Social Communication: From Diversification to Bonding

Internet Affordances and Teens' Social Communication: From Diversification to Bonding

Gustavo S. Mesch (University of Haifa, Israel)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-926-7.ch002
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As the Internet has been adopted and integrated in the daily lives of an increasing number of young adolescents in western countries, scholars and commentators are debating and speculating on the impact of these new media on the activities, social relationships and worldview of the young generation. The communication environment has become more and more complex, as youth combine the use of electronic mail, open forums, chat rooms, instant messenger and social networking sites. In this chapter the author argues that the use of different social applications, partially define the structure and content of social communication and association. In this chapter the author reviews the literature on the motivations for the use of each social application and the impact of the use on the type, size and quality of social ties that are maintained and created.
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Youth And Friendship Formation And Development

Adolescence is an important developmental stage, during which social relationships outside the family expand; their quality has been linked to various behavioral outcomes (Giordano, 2003). Social interaction with peers provides a forum for learning and refining socio-emotional skills needed for enduring relationships. Through interactions with peers, adolescents learn how to cooperate, to take different perspectives, and to satisfy growing needs for intimacy (Rubin, Bukowski & Parker, 1998; Crosnoe, 2000). Youth who report having friends are more confident, more altruistic, and less aggressive, and demonstrate greater school involvement and work orientation. For adolescents, personal relationships are a type of social support. Those with more supportive friendships were shown to have higher self-esteem, to suffer depression or other emotional disorders less often, and to be better adjusted to school than youth with less supportive friendships (Hartup, 1996; Collins & Larsen, 1999; Beraman & Moody, 2003).

The literature on personal relations has long been concerned with the quality of the ties that bind individuals. One way to measure this quality is by the strength of these ties (Marsden & Campbell, 1984). A tie’s strength is usually assessed by a combination of factors such as perceived closeness, intimacy and trust. Weaker ties are evinced in more casual relationships and in sparser exchanges; they typify relationships of those who enjoy fewer kinds of support. Strong ties exist in relationships on a high level of intimacy, involving more self-disclosure, shared activities, emotional as well as instrumental exchanges, and long-term interaction (Marsden & Campbell, 1984; Haythornthwaite, 2002).

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