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Technology Electronic Communication

Technology Electronic Communication

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Published by: Jessie L. Labiste Jr. on Nov 27, 2008
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Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships
VOL. 18 / NO. 1 / SPRING 2008
119
Online Communication and AdolescentRelationships
Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greeneld
Summary 
Over the past decade, technology has become increasingly important in the lives o adolescents.As a group, adolescents are heavy users o newer electronic communication orms such asinstant messaging, e-mail, and text messaging, as well as communication-oriented Internet sitessuch as blogs, social networking, and sites or sharing photos and videos. Kaveri Subrahmanyamand Patricia Greeneld examine adolescents’ relationships with riends, romantic partners,strangers, and their amilies in the context o their online communication activities.The authors show that adolescents are using these communication tools primarily to reinorceexisting relationships, both with riends and romantic partners. More and more they are inte-grating these tools into their “ofine” worlds, using, or example, social networking sites to getmore inormation about new entrants into their ofine world.Subrahmanyam and Greeneld note that adolescents’ online interactions with strangers, whilenot as common now as during the early years o the Internet, may have benets, such asrelieving social anxiety, as well as costs, such as sexual predation. Likewise, the authors demon-strate that online content itsel can be both positive and negative. Although teens nd valuablesupport and inormation on websites, they can also encounter racism and hate messages.Electronic communication may also be reinorcing peer communication at the expense o communication with parents, who may not be knowledgeable enough about their children’sonline activities on sites such as the enormously popular MySpace.Although the Internet was once hailed as the savior o education, the authors say that schoolstoday are trying to control the harmul and distracting uses o electronic media while childrenare at school. The challenge or schools is to eliminate the negative uses o the Internet and cellphones in educational settings while preserving their signicant contributions to education andsocial connection.
 www.utureochildren.org
Kaveri Subrahmanyam is a proessor o psychology at Caliornia State University–Los Angeles, and associate director o the Children’sDigital Media Center, UCLA/CSULA. Patricia Greenfeld is a Distinguished Proessor o Psychology at the University o Caliornia–LosAngeles and director o the Children’s Digital Media Center, UCLA/CSULA.
 
Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greeneld
120
THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN
T
he communication unctions o electronic media are especially popular among adolescents.Teens are heavy users o newcommunication orms such asinstant messaging, e-mail, and text messaging,as well as communication-oriented Internetsites such as blogs, social networking, photoand video sharing sites such as YouTube,interactive video games, and virtual reality environments, such as Second Lie. Questionsabound as to how such online communicationaects adolescents’ social development, inparticular their relationship to their peers,romantic partners, and strangers, as well astheir identity development, a core adolescentdevelopmental task.In this article, we rst describe how adoles-cents are using these new orms o electronicmedia to communicate and then present atheoretical ramework or analyzing theseuses. We discuss electronic media and rela-tionships, analyzing, in turn, relationships with riends, romantic partners, strangers,and parents. We then explore how parentsand schools are responding to adolescents’interactions with electronic media. Finally, we examine how adolescents are usingelectronic media in the service o identity construction.Adolescents have a vast array o electronictools or communication—among them,instant messaging, cell phones, and socialnetworking sites. These tools are changingrapidly and are just as rapidly becoming inde-pendent o a particular hardware platorm.Research shows that adolescents use thesecommunication tools primarily to reinorceexisting relationships, both riendships andromantic relationships, and to check out thepotential o new entrants into their ofine world.
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But while the Internet allows teens tonourish existing riendships, it also expandstheir social networks to include strangers.The newly expanded networks can be usedor good (such as relieving social anxiety) oror ill (such as sexual predation). Althoughresearchers have conducted no rigorousexperiments into how adolescents’ wide useo electronic communication may be aectingtheir relationships with their parents, indica-tions are that it may be reinorcing peer com-munication at the expense o communication with parents. Meanwhile, parents are increas-ingly hard-pressed to stay aware o exactly  what their children are doing, with newerorms o electronic communication suchas social networking sites making it harderor them to control or even infuence theirchildren’s online activities. Schools too arenow, amidst controversy and with diculty,trying to control the distracting uses o theInternet and other media such as cell phones while children are at school. The challengeor parents and schools alike is to eliminatethe negative uses o electronic media whilepreserving their signicant contributions toeducation and social connection.
Electronic Media in the Service o  Adolescent Communication
To better understand how adolescents useelectronic media or communication, westart by describing the many diverse ways in which such communication can take place.Among youth today, the popular communica-tion orms include e-mail, instant messaging,text messaging, chat rooms, bulletin boards,blogs, social networking utilities such asMySpace and Facebook, video sharing suchas YouTube, photo sharing such as Flickr,massively multiplayer online computer gamessuch as
World o Warcrat
, and virtual worldssuch as Second Lie and Teen Second Lie.Table 1 lists these communication orms, the
 
Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships
VOL. 18 / NO. 1 / SPRING 2008
121
electronic hardware that supports them, andthe unctions that they make possible.Although table 1 lists the various orms o electronic hardware that support the dier-ent communication orms, these distinctionsare getting blurred as the technology advances. For instance, e-mail, which wasoriginally supported only by the computer,can now be accessed through cell phones andother portable devices, such as personaldigital assistants (PDAs), Apple’s iPhone, theSidekick, and Helio’s Ocean. The same is trueor unctions such as instant messaging andsocial networking sites such as MySpace.Other communication orms such as YouTubeand Flickr are similarly accessible on portabledevices such as cell phones with cameras andcameras with wireless. Text messagingcontinues to be mostly the province o cellphones although one can use a wired com-puter to send a text message to a cell phone.As more phones add instant messagingservice, instant messaging by cell phone isalso growing in popularity.
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Although teensuse many o these types o electronic hard- ware to access the dierent online communi-cation orms, most research on teens’ use o electronic communication has targetedcomputers; where available, we will include
Table 1. Online Communication Form, Electronic Hardware That Supports It, and Function of theCommunication Form
Communication FormElectronic Hardware That Supports ItFunctions Enabled
E-mailComputers, cell phones,Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)Write, store, send, and receive asynchronous messages electroni-cally; can include attachments o word documents, pictures, audio,and other multimedia flesInstant messagingComputers, cell phones, PDAs Allows the synchronous exchange o private messages with anotheruser; messages primarily are in text but can include attachments o word documents, pictures, audio, and other multimedia flesText messagingCell phones, PDAs Short text messages sent using cell phones and wireless hand-helddevices such as the Sidekick and Personal Digital AssistantsChat roomsComputersSynchronous conversations with more than one user that primarilyinvolve text; can be either public or privateBulletin boardsComputersOnline public spaces, typically centered on a topic (such as health,illnesses, religion), where people can post and read messages;many require registration, but only screen names are visible (suchas www.collegeconfdential.com)BlogsComputersWebsites where entries are typically displayed in reverse chronologi-cal order (such as www.livejournal.com); entries can be either publicor private only or users authorized by the blog owner/authorSocial networkingutilitiesComputersOnline utilities that allow users to create profles (public or private)and orm a network o riends; allow users to interact with theirriends via public and private means (such as messages, instantmessaging); also allow the posting o user-generated content suchas photos and videos (such as www.myspace.com)Video sharingComputers, cell phones,cameras with wirelessAllows users to upload, view, and share video clips (such as www.YouTube.com)Photo sharingComputers, cell phones,cameras with wirelessAllows users to upload, view, and share photos (such as www.Flickr.com); users can allow either public or private accessMassively multiplayeronline computer games(MMOG)ComputersOnline games that can be played by large numbers oplayers simul-taneously; the most popular type are the massively multiplayer roleplaying games (MMORPG) such as
World of Warcraft 
Virtual worldsComputersOnline simulated 3-D environments inhabited by players who interactwith each other via avatars (such as Teen Second Lie)

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