VOL. 18 / NO. 1 / SPRING 2008
Online Communication and Adolescent
Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenﬁeld
Over the past decade, technology has become increasingly important in the lives of adolescents.
As a group, adolescents are heavy users of newer electronic communication forms such as
instant messaging, e-mail, and text messaging, as well as communication-oriented Internet sites
such as blogs, social networking, and sites for sharing photos and videos. Kaveri Subrahmanyam
and Patricia Greenﬁeld examine adolescents’ relationships with friends, romantic partners,
strangers, and their families in the context of their online communication activities.
The authors show that adolescents are using these communication tools primarily to reinforce
existing relationships, both with friends and romantic partners. More and more they are inte-
grating these tools into their “ofﬂine” worlds, using, for example, social networking sites to get
more information about new entrants into their ofﬂine world.
Subrahmanyam and Greenﬁeld note that adolescents’ online interactions with strangers, while
not as common now as during the early years of the Internet, may have beneﬁts, such as
relieving social anxiety, as well as costs, such as sexual predation. Likewise, the authors demon-
strate that online content itself can be both positive and negative. Although teens ﬁnd valuable
support and information on websites, they can also encounter racism and hate messages.
Electronic communication may also be reinforcing peer communication at the expense of
communication with parents, who may not be knowledgeable enough about their children’s
online activities on sites such as the enormously popular MySpace.
Although the Internet was once hailed as the savior of education, the authors say that schools
today are trying to control the harmful and distracting uses of electronic media while children
are at school. The challenge for schools is to eliminate the negative uses of the Internet and cell
phones in educational settings while preserving their signiﬁcant contributions to education and
Kaveri Subrahmanyam is a professor of psychology at California State University–Los Angeles, and associate director of the Children’s
Digital Media Center, UCLA/CSULA. Patricia Greenﬁeld is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California–Los
Angeles and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, UCLA/CSULA.