Adolescents and Electronic Communication (page 3)

By — Children's Digital Media Center Los Angeles
Updated on Aug 14, 2009

Benefits Online

The Internet is not all about risks. It contains potential benefits as well. Research shows that the internet can provide social compensation in that a socially awkward adolescent may feel more comfortable communicating on-line and in writing than in person, and indeed may gain positive self esteem from this type of communication (1). Through the Internet, teens may also develop a community of mutual support for an unusual and potentially tragic situation such as being afflicted with cancer (5). Adolescents can also use teen health and sexuality bulletin boards to get information on topics that can be too embarrassing to discuss with parents, physicians, or even friends (11).
Let us end by putting the Internet and adolescence in a larger perspective. Human beings evolved for face-to-face communication. The presence of another person in the flesh triggers important human emotions such as empathy. We may be reducing such emotions in developing human beings by reducing face-to-face communication and augmenting electronic communication. At the same time, we all recognize that adolescents need a social life. To the extent that they have restricted access to peers in in-person situations, they will compensate using electronic means. Because of this need for a social life and the unique functions of face-to-face communication, it is important that parents take steps to ensure that their teens have plenty of opportunity for face-to-face interaction with their peers.
On the other hand, and equally important, electronic communication often enhances relations with peers while undermining family rituals and establishing intergenerational boundaries (12). Parents therefore need to make efforts to maximize family activities in order to expand their own influence through positive means. The positive influences of parents on adolescent development can take place only when parents spend time with their adolescent children.            
The preceding makes it clear that there are both risks and benefits when adolescents live their lives through electronic communication, a trend that has peaked with the advent of social networking sites. 
  • Parents must act to remain the key influence in children’s lives by providing opportunities to socialize with peers in constructive ways and by organizing enjoyable family activities.
  • By educating themselves about these new forms of communication, parents can apply appropriate rules and restrictions to adolescent’s use of the technology; however, desired results depend on combining these behaviors with parental warmth and involvement.
  • Parents may also be able to use the technology to enhance communication with their children for the benefit of their adolescent children’s development and family life.


  1. Gross, E.F. (2004). Adolescent internet use: What we expect, what teens report. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 25 (6),633-649.
  2. Subrahmanyam, K., Smahel, D., & Greenfield, P. M. (2006). Connecting developmental processes to the internet: Identity presentation and sexual exploration in online teen chatrooms. Developmental Psychology, 42, 395-406
  3. Manago, A. M., Graham M. B., Greenfield, P. M., & Salimkhan, G. (2008). Self presentation and gender on MySpace. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 446- 458.
  4.  Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007), Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1), 210-230.
  5.  Suzuki, L. K., & Beale, I., L. (2006). Personal web home pages of adolescents with cancer: Self-presentation, information dissemination, and interpersonal connection. Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, Vol 23, No 3., 152 – 163.
  6. Subrahmanyam, K., Reich, S., Waechter, N., & Espinoza, G.(2008), On-line and off-line social networks: Use of social networking sites by emerging adults. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29 (6), 420-433.
  7.  Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., and Carrier, L. M.(2008), The association of parental style and parental limit setting and adolescent, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29 (6) 459-471.
  8.  Greenfield, P. M. (2004). Inadvertent exposure to pornography on the Internet: Implications of peer-to-peer file sharing networks for child development and families. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29. (6), p. 417-419.
  9. Juvonen, J., Gross, E.F. (2008). Extending the school grounds? Bullying Experiences in cyber space, Journal of School Health, 78 (9), 496-505.
  10. Subrahmanyam, K. & Greenfield, P. G. (2008), Virtual worlds in development: Implications of social networking sites. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29. (6), p. 417-419.
  11. Suzuki, L. K., & Calzo, J. P. (2004). The search for peer advice in cyberspace: An examination of online teen bulletin boards about health and sexuality. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 5, 685-698. (pp. 219-234). New York: Oxford University Press
  12. Ling, R. & Yttri, B. (2006), Control, Emancipation and Status, the mobile phone is teens’ parental and peer relationships. In R. E. Kraut, M. Brynin, & S. Kiesler (Eds.), Computers, phones, and the Internet: domesticating information technology
Yalda T. Uhls and Patricia M. Greenfield, Department of Psychology, UCLA, Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles,, For more information, please visit The Children's Digital Media Center, Los Angeles at
View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.