By Jessica Grier, Mark Dennis, Aslynn Fuhrman and Lauren Haskins
As technology profilerates and becomes more available, an increasing number of adolescents are using the internet. Whether they use facebook pages, online games or other features presented on a computer, adolescents are more often than not found on a computer. Facebook's website claims that it currrently has 350 million active users. This merely accounts for whatever criteria Facebook uses to determine whether a user is active or not. In March 2009, insidefacebook.com released an article stating that people from in the 13 to 17 age group had experienced a user increase of over a million users from October 2008 to March 2009. While this demographic accounted for only 11% of Facebook's user growth from that period, it must be remembered that many, if not all, of the users between the ages of 13 to 17 are going on to Facebook for the first time. Teenchatdecoder.com reports that underage sex resulting from online interaction occurs most often with the age group of 13 to 17 year-old people. Consequently, it is necessary not only to understand how an adolescent interacts on the internet, but why such interaction occurs and what results afterwards.
It is a fair assessment to say that adolescence is a difficult stage in most every child’s life. It is the first time where an answer is actively sought to the profound question of ‘who am I’? That is a question that, as adults, many of us are still trying to answer. Adolescence is the period beginning at age twelve, usually ending somewhere around the age of eighteen. This transition period is dedicated to finding a sense of self and carving out one’s own identity within the context of society. Stage theorists, the most prominent of whom is the noted Erik Erikson, have developed countless theories about development during adolescence and the common theme amongst them is the search for identity. Erickson asserts that adolescents form their identities out of the need for belonging and feeling the sense of accomplishment and autonomy that comes from separating ourselves from the pack and becoming our own person. Erikson further asserts that the families, friends, and other influences most salient to the youth are what that child will utilize most heavily to seek out their identity among other factors. Children of this age want to find the identity that best suits them, and one that allows them acceptance from others, and makes them feel good about themselves. The best way to find the perfect fit is to try on a number of personas and identities and take them for a test run. The feedback that the youth receives from family and friends is of the utmost importance to the teen in determining the success of limitations of the direction in which they are heading with their search. Now enter the computer! Teens and youth were left to accomplish the goal of finding themselves in the forum of daily life, face to face interactions, and at-home trials and brainstorming, that is, until the advent of personal web pages and social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, chat rooms, and all manner of online social media. The internet is the new means for youth to find their identity, a runway of sorts, upon which they can test drive different looks and receive feedback from others as to how well it works for them and ultimately find the perfect fit. While the search for identity drags on, teens have found the perfect arena in which to search for answers to this monumental question in the internet.
Instant messaging is one of the most popular ways to communicate with teens online. IMing gives teenagers the ability to express their feelings without having a face-to-face conversation. Even though instant messaging has its positives it also can have some down falls when it comes to people bullying others and it can even affect their grammar when it comes to English. Given the prevalence of instant messaging, these factors cannot easily be discounted.
The section of this website entitled “Teens and Sex Online” explores the use of the internet in the construction of sexual identity for adolescents. As technology progresses, teens are not only relying on television and movies for sexual information and education but even more so, the internet. Peers and romantic partners are an additional and vital, source of information in the world of sexual identity construction by way of communication and conversation. The use of the internet and chat rooms provides the best of both worlds for teens, allowing them to communicate with the comfort of the keyboard and computer screen. “Teens and Sex Online” explains why teens are utilizing chat rooms and what measures are being made to keep teens safe when potentially communicating with strangers.
The quality of internet relationships must also be fully understood. Are online relationships more valuable to adolescents than offline relationships? What are the factors that make one more important than the other? What long-term effects do online friendships have for adolescents- are they negative or positive? Who benefits more, boys or girls? On the "Relationship Quality" page, these questions are answered.