||The importance of peer relationships to adolescent development has been well established. In the past, adolescents’ peer social networks have been somewhat restricted by access and proximity and have included home, school, and out-of-school activities such as jobs, sports, and clubs. Since the introduction of virtual social networking (VSN) internet sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, however, adolescents have been afforded not only more immediate and constant access to peers they know, but also immediate and constant access to others around the globe whom they may or may not know. Given that peer experiences are influential in identity development and perceptions of belongingness, new questions are raised about the influence of these internet-based social networking opportunities on normative adolescent psycho-social development and its effects on school-based relationships and learning.
Given that most research on VSN use explores the threats of online bulling and predators, the current research sought to address the lacuna in our knowledge of the positive effects, if any, of VSN on the psycho-social development of young women. Data were gathered from a sample of 11 adolescent girls ages 14-16. Qualitative data were collected by interview, while quantitative data were gathered using three valid and reliable established measures of self-esteem, sense of belonging, and identity development.
Findings are explored in the context of normative/non-normative development and implications for teachers and counselors are discussed.