Cyber friends linked to bad behaviour

NZ Herald August 17, 2007
Tweens are more likely to act up or be bullies if they have online friends they have never met, a new study says. They are also more likely to be short of sleep, away from school and depressed. The findings are among the first from the Youth Connectedness Project, which tracks more than 2000 children aged 10 to 15 over three years. The Government-financed project led by Victoria University found 72 per cent of respondents used the internet for leisure. Of those, 38 per cent had online friends they had never met. While males and females were equally likely to have online friendships, age did play a role, with 27 per cent of 10- to-11-year-olds having online friends compared with 48 per cent of 14- to-15-year-olds.Research fellow Dr Jo Kleeb said almost half of those with online friends were classed “high risk” for conflict, such as bullying or fighting with their family. The figure for other internet users was a quarter. She said it was too early to pinpoint why adolescents with online friends were more likely to get into trouble, but it might be because people tended to vent emotional stress on the internet and could over-invest in online friendships. The cyber friends might also encourage aggression.”Those who have got online friends are less likely to be monitored by their parents.” Dr Kleeb said parents should try to strike a balance by keeping an eye on their children’s internet activities.