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J Adolesc. 2003 Feb;26(1):105-19.

Escaping or connecting? Characteristics of youth who form close online relationships.

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  • 1Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 126 Horton Hall, Durham, NH 03824, USA. janis.wolak@unh.edu


We used data from a US national sample of Internet users, ages 10-17 (N=1501), to explore the characteristics of youth who had formed close relationships with people they met on the Internet (n=210). Girls who had high levels of conflict with parents or were highly troubled were more likely than other girls to have close online relationships, as were boys who had low levels of communication with parents or were highly troubled, compared to other boys. Age, race and aspects of Internet use were also related. We know little about the nature or quality of the close online relationships, but youth with these sorts of problems may be more vulnerable to online exploitation and to other possible ill effects of online relationships. At the same time, these relationships may have helpful aspects.

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