The Internet isn’t the worrisome hell-hole that parents everywhere seem to be freaked out about, says a new study by Pew Research on teens, technology, and friendship.

Among the areas researched on kids aged 13 to 17 included how many friends teens have made online, how important text messaging is in maintaining friendships, how online gaming builds stronger connections, and more — all of which seem to point to the fact that kids are learning how to function normally in an increasingly unreasonable digital world. So calm down, mom and dad.

While 95 percent of teens say they spend time with friends IRL, a whopping 57 percent of teens make new friends online whom they communicate with on a daily basis, with 29 percent saying they’ve made more than five friends this way. Eighty percent say they keep the friendship online instead of in person by using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but also by playing networked video games.

Gaming as a venue for friendship turns out to be profoundly influential. Eighty-four percent of boys and 59 percent of girls play games, and 83 percent of all teens polled say they connect to others — new friends included — via online gaming. And sitting in front of a screen mashing buttons and cussing into a microphone may not be hurting the way young people interact, as 78 percent say playing online games helps them connect to friends they already know, and 52 percent said it connects them to gamers who aren’t friends. Clearly, the friend group that blows up shit and steals cars in Grand Theft Auto together, stays together.

As for social media, 83 percent say digitally keeping up with their friends’ lives on a daily basis gives them a better emotional connection, and a majority had friends reach out to them via social media when they were going through a difficult experience. Meanwhile, only 40 percent of teens felt the need to create tweets or Facebook posts that made them look good to others. That’s no small figure, but it’s less than the groups who seem to feel social media’s benefits outweigh its stressors. Young people are figuring out how to make this new world work for them, and they’re enlisting their friends to make that happen.


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