Early adolescents are frequent users of online communication tools (OCTs). Yet, we have limited knowledge about how OCTs influence this population and their friendships. We sought opinions of 938 Austrian early adolescents on the role of OCTs for their friendships via a questionnaire and 207 focus groups. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the focus groups. We found that despite the emergence of some online-specific aggression, OCTs are perceived as beneficial for friendships. Early adolescents use online spaces naturally and differentiate little between online and offline communication. Only when it comes to high levels of intimacy, early adolescents also need an offline setting to fulfill their communication need. Online communication tools, especially newer forms such as online gaming, can surpass a mere communicative function and provide a space for building and maintaining friendships. In the future, OCTs should be considered as a tool to facilitate positive development in early adolescents.
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
- Pädagogische und Entwicklungspsychologie
- Sozialwissenschaften (sonstige)
- Soziologie und Politikwissenschaften
- Lebensspannen- und Lebenslaufstudien