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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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31

The Effects of Internet Communication on Adolescents' Psychosocial Development

An Assessment of Risks and Opportunities

Jochen Peter and Patti M. Valkenburg

ABSTRACT

In this chapter, we discuss both the appeal and psychosocial consequences of different types of Internet communication, such as instant messaging and social network sites. We identify five characteristics of Internet communication that may explain both the attraction of Internet communication for adolescents, as well as its potential positive and negative consequences. Next, we review the research that has addressed some opportunities (i.e., friendship formation and quality) and risks (i.e., cyberbullying; relationships with online strangers) of the Internet for psychosocial development. We end by outlining shortcomings of existing research and make some suggestions for future research.1

Adolescents and the Internet

In most rich Western countries, Internet communication has become an integral part of adolescents' lives. Adolescents are the defining users of Internet communication. They far outnumber adults in their use of Internet communication technologies, such as instant messaging and social networking sites (e.g., Lenhart, Madden, Smith, & Macgill, 2007). For example, 53% of US and 91% of Dutch adolescent Internet users communicate online through instant messaging (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010; Valkenburg & Peter, 2009a), and increasing numbers of adolescents have started to use social network sites (e.g., ...

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