cyberpsychology of youth and new media

Hagit Sasson, Gustavo Mesch. Parental Mediation, Peer Norms and Risky Online Behavior. Computers in Human Behavior 33 (2014) 32–38

Parental mediation, peer norms and risky online behavior among adolescents



Previous studies have shown that parental mediation of adolescents online is associated with the latter’s participation in risky behavior online and being a victim of online harassment and bullying.  However, there is a paucity of studies investigating the differential contribution of peers’ norms and parental mediation on adolescents’ engagement in risky online behavior. To fill this gap in the literature, we collected data from a representative sample of 495 sixth to eleventh grade students in a large city in Israel. Participants responded to an online survey measuring three types of parental mediation: active guidance, restrictive supervision and non-intervention.  We measured risky behavior online with items indicating the frequency of posting personal details, sending an insulting massage and meeting face-to-face with a stranger met online. In addition, respondents reported their perceptions about their peers’ attitudes toward various risky online behaviors. Multivariate findings show that after controlling for age, gender, time spent online and online activities, only restrictive parental supervision had a significant effect. However, such supervision actually increased adolescents’ risky behavior online. Perceptions that one’s peers approve of such behavior reduced the effect of restrictive parental supervision, leading to increased risky actions online. The results emphasize the importance of peer networks in youngsters’ engagement in risky online activities.

On Cyberbullying, interesting short review

A study by Gustavo S. Mesch indicates that adolescents vary in their willingness to share personal information online. It is determined, however, that most youth lack the ability to determine when one should withhold such information and cease communicating with strangers on the Internet (Mesch, p. 391). Though parents seek to teach their children about relationships and the importance of such values as “trust” and “honesty,” our world of ever-emerging communication technologies may cause the need to reevaluate these principles. The question remains: How can parents properly shelter their children from such threats when friends meet on the Internet?

Midwest book review on Wired Youth (2010) Mesch & Talmud

Most Helpful Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars

A work of impressive and painstaking scholarship, September 9, 2010 By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) – .Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age (Adolescence and Society Series) (Paperback) The latest addition to the outstanding ‘Adolescence and Society’ series from Routledge, “Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age” is the collaborative work of Gustavo S. Mesch (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa) and Ilan Talmud (Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa). This 184-page compendium presents a seminal introduction and description of the literature on youth sociability and relationship formation in this era of personal electronic communications. Of special interest is the attention paid to the negative and positive consequences of adolescent usage (and contemporary dependence upon) online communication. A work of impressive and painstaking scholarship, enhanced with twenty pages of references and a comprehensive index, “Wired Youth” is a strongly recommended addition to academic library Contemporary Sociology reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Wired Youth (2010) Mesch & Talmud

The Prevention Researcher,
Volume 17, Number 5, 2010, Pages 17

“thought-provoking discussions about the fundamental nature of internet-based social interaction.” 

The Prevention Researcher is a quarterly journal that uses a straightforward and easy-to-read approach to present the most current research and developments in adolescent behavioral research.

Reviewed by John de Miranda, Ed.M.
 Part of the series “Adolescence and Society” published by Routledge, Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age is aimed at undergraduates in education and the social sciences, as well as professionals in the same fields. The reviewer, John de Miranda, found that the authors (Gustavo Mesch and Ilan Talmud) present “thought-provoking discussions about the fundamental nature of internet-based social interaction.”

Contemporary Sociology, March 2011 Issue

Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age

Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age, by Gustavo S. Mesch, Ilan Talmud . New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. $34.95 paper. 176pp. ISBN: 9780415459945.

This book provides a broad interdisciplinary review of literature on youth involvement with digital social technologies. The authors consider research and theory from the perspectives of technological determinism and social constructivism. Although drawing conclusions from both, they ultimately take a sociological approach, viewing digital socializing as an embedded feature of the social structure. They are optimistic about the effects on young people of digital social technologies such as the Internet and cell phones, noting that online social networks tend to increase friendship networks for both introverted and extroverted youth. The highest Internet users tend to be the most social, even when off the Internet. The authors also consider the dangers, including findings that connect Internet use and decreased well-being for introverted youth. Cyberbullying, the act of bullying through online communications such as Instant Messengers, or social networking sites such as Facebook, is on the rise and appears to be magnifying traditional instances of bullying within schools. They also report that youth who use the Internet for socializing tend to spend less time with their families and more time with peer groups. This suggests new technologies may be giving peer groups more influence over youth, which may be a concern for some parents. The authors cover a lot of ground, making this a valuable resource for those interested in examining the prevailing research into digital social technologies and their effect on youth culture. ֲ© American Sociologi cal Association 2011

New Book Wright, Kevin B. / Webb, Lynne M. (eds.)Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships

 This collection of readings  analyze communication issues of ongoing importance in relationships including deception, disclosure, identity, influence, perception, privacy, sexual fidelity, and social support. The book examines subjects that attract intense student interest – including online performance of gender, online dating, and using computer-mediated communication to achieve family/work life balance – and will inspire further research and course development in the area of computer-mediated communication in personal relationships. Because it provides a synthesis of ideas at the nexus of interpersonal communication theory and computer-mediated communication theory, the book can serve as a textbook for advanced undergraduate as well as graduate courses.



Preface. Kevin B. Wright & Lynne M. Webb


PART 1: The Influence of Technology on How Relational PartnersCommunicate Online

1. A Functional Approach to Social Networking Sites 3 

Erin M. Bryant, Jennifer Marmo, & Artemio Ramirez, Jr.

Jeffrey T. Child & Sandra Petronio

3. A New Twist on Love’s Labor: Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles 41

Catalina L. Toma & Jeffrey T. Hancock

4. Microchannels and CMC: Short Paths to Developing, 56

Maintaining, and Dissolving Relationships

Deborah Ballard-Reisch, Bobby Rozzell, Lou Heldman, & David Kamerer

PART 2: Processes and Goals in Computer-Mediated Communication

in Personal Relationships

in Online and Face-to-face Relationships

W. Scott Sanders & Patricia Amason

6. Relational Maintenance and CMC 98

Stephanie Tom Tong & Joseph B. Walther

7. Locating Computer-Mediated Social Support 119

Within Online Communication Environments

Andrew C. High & Denise H. Solomon

8. Personal Relationships and Computer-Mediated Support Groups 137

Kevin B. Wright & Ahlam Muhtaseb

9. Online Self-Disclosure: A Review of Research 156

Jinsuk Kim & Kathryn Dindia

10. Multicommunicating and Episodic Presence: 181

Developing New Constructs for Studying New Phenomena

Jeanine Warisse Turner & N. Lamar Reinsch, Jr

 .11. The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same:


The Role of ICTs in Work and Family Connections 194


Paige P. Edley & Renée Houston PART 3: Influences of CMC on Relational Contexts

12. CMC and the Conceptualization of “Friendship”:

How Friendships Have Changed with the Advent

of New Methods of Interpersonal Communication 225

Amy Janan Johnson & Jennifer A. H. Becker

13. A Cross-Contextual Examination of Technologically Mediated

Communication and Social Presence in Long-Distance Relationships 244

Katheryn C. Maguire & Stacey L. Connaughton

14. Healthcare Provider-Recipient Interactions:

Is “Online” Interaction the Next Best Thing to Being There? 266

Theodore A. Avtgis, E. Phillips Polack, Sydney M. Staggers,

& Susan M. Wieczorek

PART 4: The Dark Side of Computer-Mediated Communication

in Personal Relationships

15. Family Imbalance and Adjustment to Information 285

16. Online Performances of Gender: Blogs, Gender-Bending,

and Cybersex as Relational Exemplars 302

Mark L. Hans, Brittney D. Selvidge, Katie A. Tinker, & Lynne M. Webb

17. Digital Deception in Personal Relationships 324

Norah E. Dunbar & Matthew Jensen

18. Speculating about Spying on MySpace and Beyond:

Social Network Surveillance and Obsessive Relational Intrusion 344

Makenzie Phillips & Brian H. Spitzberg

19. Problematic Youth Interactions Online:

Solicitation, Harassment, and Cyberbullying 368

Andrew R. Schrock & danah boyd


Kevin B. Wright (PhD, University of Oklahoma) is Professor in Communication at the University of Oklahoma. His research examines interpersonal communication, social support related to health outcomes, and computer-mediated relationships. He coauthored Health Communication in the 21st Century, and his research appears in over 45 book chapters and journal articles, including the Journal of Communication, Communication Monographs, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Communication Quarterly, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Health Communication, and the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
Lynne M. Webb (PhD, University of Oregon) is Professor in Communication at the University of Arkansas. She previously served as a tenured faculty member at the Universities of Florida and Memphis. Her research examines young adults’ interpersonal communication in romantic and family contexts. Her research appears in over 50 essays published in scholarly journals and edited volumes, including Computers in Human Behavior, Communication Education, Health Communication, and Journal of Family Communication.

2. Unpacking the Paradoxes of Privacy in CMC Relationships


Cybebullying: a case for a social network approach

This paragraph is from our recent book,                                                                           Mesch, Gustavo and Ilan Talmud. (2010) Wired Youth The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age. Pp. 119-136. Routledge.

The social network perspective focuses on exchanges (or the lack of) between
pairs of actors. A social network relation denotes the type of exchange or interaction between any pair of actors in a system of actors. The network approach differs from other approaches mainly in its focus on exchanges and interactions between actors, not on the individual characteristics of the actors engaged in the exchange of resources. Social network analysis is used to describe the network and to explain how involvement in a particular network helps to explain its members’ attitudes and behavior.                                 In our understanding of the role of youth social networks it is positive
outcomes that are almost always emphasized.  At the same time we should recognize that social ties can carry negative outcomes, commonly thought to be the result of lack of social ties alone. Not belonging to a large network, not experiencing closeness to existing ties, or belonging to a low density network are all assumed conducive to deterioration in mental health. Note however that negative outcomes may result from being involved in negative social ties—negative in the sense of hostile, aggressive, and humiliating interactions
Joining social media, is joining or creating a network, and the structure, composition and activities, together with its integration with the school based social network have implications for cyberbullying and bullying.
Networks need to be studied to understand their role in bullying behavior and victimization.
More you can read in our book at your library.

Parental Mediation, Online Activities and Cyberbullying Gustavo Mesch

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of exposure to online risks and parental mediation on the likelihood of cyberbullying in a large and representative sample of the youth population of the U.S.

Conceptualization of Cyberbullying

This study relies on the routine-activities theory of victimization (Felson and Cohen, 1979). The basic assumption underlying the lifestyle exposure theory is that differences in the likelihood of victimization are attributed to differences in personal lifestyles of the victims. Variations in lifestyles are important because they are related to exposure to dangerous spaces where there are high risks of victimization. In victimization studies, space is a critical element. Cohen and Felson (1979), contend that exposure to personal victimization is more likely when there is a  convergence in space of motivated offenders, suitable targets, and absence of effective guardianship.

In order to apply this perspective to Internet studies, the internet should be considered as a new space of activity of youth. The innovative aspect of the Internet is to provide opportunities for activities that induce social interaction resulting in providing a space for meeting new individuals, and in that sense the social use represents more than a communication channel, in many cases a space of social activity. Feld (1981) uses the concept of foci of activity, defining them as “social, psychological, legal or physical objects around which joint activities are organized.”  From this perspective, foci of activity place individuals in proximity (for example, they provide opportunities for frequent meetings), which causes individuals to reveal themselves to each other.The Internet bring individuals to perform many regular activities and social interaction develops.

As youth use the Internet for their daily routine activities it can be argued that online activities differ in the extent that they expose youth to risks of being bullied. Consistent with this argument there is some evidence that Internet frequent use and high level of Internet skills increase the risk of being online bullied . It can be expected, that youth that participate in Internet activities in which there is a high likelihood of providing contact and personal information are at a higher risk that youth that use the Internet mainly to search for information provided in web pages. Thus in this study is expected that having a profile in a social networking site and participating in a clip sharing site increase the risk of being bullied online.

Online bullying requires some knowledge about the victim. When conducting online activities, individuals differ in the extent that they are willing to share personal information. Some are less willing to provide contact and personal information than others. Thus, it is expected that individuals that express more willingness to provide personal information are at a higher risk of being bullied than the ones that are express more reservations in sharing this information.

Parental mediation

An additional concept in routine activity theories is guardianship that refers to the use of protective activities to decrease the risk of victimization and refers to actions or people whose presence would discourage a crime from taking place. Guardianship may have a ‘human element’, that is usually a person that by their mere presence would deter potential offenders from perpetrating an act.  A capable guardian could also be an electronic device such as a closed capture camera providing that someone is monitoring it at the other end of the camera.

This concept has been used slightly different in the media literature. Parental mediation is a concept that has been used in media research to understand the process of television influence on audience attitudes and behaviors. According to the parental mediation model individuals are exposed to media content that may affect their attitudes and behaviors ( Rothfuss-Buerkel, & Buerkel. 2001) The model assumes that this effect is mediated by intervening variables in a way that the extent that some viewers may adopt attitudes and behaviors presented in the media is dependent on parent activities that affects how the information is received, processed and acted on by the audiences(Bybee, Robinson and Turow (1982). According to the literature there are various types of mediation, but we restrict our discussion to only two techniques: 1 Restrictive mediation involves limiting the child amount of viewing time and the programs watched. It is restrictive as does not involve the active participation of the child and is a decision of the parent. In this study it was measured by the use of electronic devices that restrict the content and web sites that the youth is exposed to. 2. Evaluative mediation represents the open discussion on issues related to Internet use, evaluation of content and subsequently the joint creation of rules regarding amount of time for Internet use, websites that are allowed and not allowed and placing the computer in a common space that allows parents to co-use the internet with their children and to be available for questions (Eastin, Bradley, Greenberg & Hofschire, 2006; Bybee, Robinson & Turow (1982).

Age and gender should be considered as well. Studies have found that the risk of being bullied is higher for older adolescents and lower for younger adolescents (Patchin and Hinduja, 2006; Mitchell et al, 2007). This age difference may be the result of developmental factors that affect the extent and type of Internet use. It is very likely that as youth growth older they engage in more activities with unknown others that result in an increased risk for being bullied online. The evidence regarding gender differences in exposure to cyberbullyng is mixed. Some studies did not find gender differences, and boys and males did not differ in the extent of self reported cyber bullying (Li, 2006; Mitchell, et. al, 2007; Pachin and Hinduja, 2006; Hinduja and Patchin, 2008). Yet there is some evidence that boys and girls use the Internet differently and are exposed to different types of parental mediation.


Participants comprised 935 teens aged 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in continental US. Participants were recruited by means of a representative sample of the youth population of the U.S. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates int. Interviews were conducted during the October-November 2006. The response rate for the survey was 46 percent.


we compared youth that have reported being a victim of cyber bullying with the ones that have not. Victims and non victims did differ in terms of their family social background.  Youth reporting having been victim of online bullying, their parents report on average a higher education than youth that report not have been a victim of bullying (M=5.02, SD= 1.53 and M=4.09, SD= 1.52,  p<.001). Online victims of bullying are on average older than non-victims. While the average age of victims of online bullying is 15.11 the average age of the non victims is 14.43 (p<.01).  Gender is associated with bullying and it was found that while only 39 percent of the males were victims, 61 percent of the girls reported being bullied at least once.

Regarding the existence of parental rules, parents of non-victims are more likely to have rules on Internet use.  The percentage of non victims of bullying reporting the existence of parental rules on web sites that are allowed to visit, time that they are allowed to be online, is higher among non-victims than among victims.

Online activities were found associated with online bullying. When inspecting the association of reporting being bullied and online activities a significant association was found between victimization and having an active profile in social network site (Chi=93.68 p</001), participation in public chat rooms (Chi=16.78 p<.001) and participation in youtube (Chi=27.70 p<.001). Online bullying was not found to be associated with playing online games. In the next step a multivariate analysis using logistic regression modeling was conducted because the dependent variable victimization is a dummy variable. Youth that frequently send text messages, IM messages and emails to their friends are at a higher risk of victimization. Furthermore, independently of online activities youth that are willing to disclose more personal information are at a higher risk of victimization than children that are less willing to disclose personal information.

Regarding the potential protective effect of parental mediation, the results are mixed. From all the restrictive mediation techniques, only monitoring web sites visited by the youth decreases the risk of victimization. The existence of rules on sites that the children are allowed to visit is statistically significant indicating that the existence of this rule decreases the odds of online cyber bullying victimization. However, other rules such as computer location, rule on time allowed to be online and rules on information share were not found to have a statistically significant effect.

The results indicate that online participation in online communication of any type is an increased risk of victimization and that parental monitoring providing guidance and restriction to web sites is effective as a protective mechanism.

An important finding is that one of the measures of evaluative mediation, namely rules on websites that adolescents are allowed to visit, was statistically significant decreasing the risk of exposure to online bullying. This result, while modest, informs us on the important role of parents engaging in conversations on the nature of websites, their content and their possible risks. Some of these sites might be related directly to the risk of victimization if parents discussing online risks are able to create awareness in youth of the potential risks of engaging in discussions in chat rooms and participating in social network sites.

An early version of the manuscript can be found at

New Study: Youth disclosure of online/offline identity information

The debate on privacy in the information age is going on and on… personally I think that is important to bring this two quotations to increase our awareness that commercial interests are interested in changing social norms, to create a “business” environment that allows to them to increase their revenues based on our privacy.

“Privacy is dead, deal with it,” Sun MicroSystems CEO Scott McNealy is widely reported to have declared some time ago.

In a recent interview with CNBC Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

A conceptual debate following the expansion of computer mediated (CMC) communication is on the question of whether CMC has generative  effects on our behavior. In a new  study, Guy Becker and I,  linked these two questions: disclosure of personal information and CMC effects in a recent study and  investigated whether norms of self-disclosure of online and offline identity are linked to online disclosure of personal and intimate information.

Various perspectives suggest that CMC exercises generative or dishinbitive effect that encourage disclosure of personal information. A number of CMC characteristics have been suggested as conducive to this norm generation. The medium’s relative anonymity has been associated with flexible norms of online disclosure t.  The perceived anonymity offered by CMC lowers the danger of future isolation and thus enables a higher level of self disclosure. Joinson (2003) studied patterns of youths’ romantic confessions (a behavior with many intense affective future outcomes) and found a higher willingness to confess romantic intentions by email than face-to-face (FTF).

Anonymity seems to support a disinhibition effect, i.e.,  the loss of constraints that a person experiences when behavior is no longer controlled by concerns about self-presentation or judgments by others (Joinson, 2003). In CMC research, disinhibition is often considered a precursor of online self-disclosure.

Thus, we expected that

H1: Norms of online information disclosure will be positively associated with actual online information disclosure.

H2: According to the CMC generative perspective, norms of disclosure of face-to-face information will be associated with norms of online  information disclosure.

The generative approach implicitly implies that intensity of exposure to the Internet is associated with the dissociation between norms of online and offline disclosure of information. Individuals need to become immersed in the online communication task, in order to perceived the other according to internal consciousness factors including biased impressions of the other that generate a perception of trust that leads to different norms of disclosure of online information. Thus, we expected that

H3: online information disclosure is associated with intensity of Internet usage, so the higher the use of the Internet, the higher the disclosure of information online.

Given that self-disclosure to peers increases in adolescence (Buhrmester & Prager, 1995) and that blogs provide adolescents with a means for peer communication, we expected.

H4: Disclosure of personal information to be associated with age, so the younger the user, the less he/she will disclose online information.


* Having a public online personal profile is positively correlated with been alright to provide email address, IM screen name, and link to a personal blog.

*Having a personal photograph on the web in a space accessible to all is positively and statistically significantly correlated with alright to provide e-mail address, IM screen name, and link to a personal blog.

*The same results were found for posting a clip on the web in a space accessible to all.

Accordingly, these findings support the hypothesis that norms of online behavior are correlated with actual behavior online.

H2 predicted that norms of face-to-face information disclosure will not be associated with online information disclosure norms.

* The correlations of norms supporting disclosure of personal and online identity information were low or non-significant. For example, the correlation between alright to provide last name and email address was .10, and that between alright to provide school name and email address was .09. At the same time, the correlation between alright to provide last name and IM screen name, and that between alright to provide last name and link to the personal blog, were non-significant.

No indication appears here as to any association between norms of disclosure of offline personal identity and of online identity. The findings award some merit to CMC theories of generative effects of the media and the use of specific norms of online behavior. Further support for this argument requires finding no correlation between norms of disclosure of offline information and online behavior, and a correlation between norms of disclosure of online identity information and online behavior.

The following correlations do support this possibility.

1. there are only three small, negative and significant correlations between norms of offline identity disclosure and online behavior. Alright to disclose last name is negatively correlated with having an online profile (-.07), and alright to provide home phone number is also negatively correlated to having a profile online (-.07). While statistically significant, these correlations are very low, and the others are non-significant indicating hardly any association between norms of disclosure of personal information and norms of disclosure of online identity information.

2. positive and statistically significant correlations exist between norms of disclosure of online identity and online behavior.

According to H3 online information disclosure is associated with intensity of Internet usage, so the higher the use of the Internet, the higher will be the disclosure of information online. The results support the hypothesis and positive and statistically significant correlations were found between frequency of Internet usage and the three measures of norms of disclosure of online identity information. Positive statistically significant correlations were found between frequency of internet usage and online behavior.

H4 predicted that age will be positively associated with disclosure of online information and H5 predicted that girls will disclose more online information than boys.

The analysis showed a link between gender and frequency of social norms supporting private information disclosure. According to the correlation matrix, norms of personal information disclosure are age-dependent as well. Positive correlations were found between age and alright to disclose last name and school’s name. Also, a positive association was found between age and alright to disclose online information such as email account, IM screen name and personal blog.. Yet, no gender differences were found in supporting norms of online identity disclosure and girls were more likely to disclose online information. Thus, H5 was supported.

Some conclusions:

The results provide an indication that disclosure of online identity information is associated with a media generative effect.

Norms of offline-identity information disclosure were not related to norms of online-identity disclosure, indicating that they are not associated with online behavior.

Our findings indicate that youth hold two different sets of norms that are not related: one that indicates when, and under what circumstances, personal identification information may be disclosed to others, and the other regarding what details of online identity to disclose. Furthermore, the most important and significant result of this study is that norms of online-identity disclosure are associated with online behavior but not with norms of disclosure of personal information (like last name, address, phone number and school name).

The study hypotheses were tested by a secondary analysis of the 2006 Pew and American life survey of parents and teens. This data set is particularly appropriate for this study as it was drawn from a representative sample of the US youth population and is probably the only known data set that included in the survey measures of privacy norms and online behavior.

The Parents & Teens 2006 Survey was sponsored by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a non-partisan and non profit organization that collects data and provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.

Guy Becker and I thank to the Pew Internet and American Life Project for providing access to the data.

The paper will be published in Human Communication Research. An earlier version is available at

Social Support-Loneliness and the Use of Social Networking Sites

Results from Adults use of Social Networking Sites

(Gustavo S. Mesch, University of Haifa,

Principal Investigator

Almost 10 years ago, when Robert Kraut et al. revised their data on the social impact of the Internet [1] they argued for a “rich get richer” hypothesis of Internet effects on society. The “rich get richer” hypothesis argues that using the Internet predicts better outcomes for those with more social support and worse outcomes for those with less support.

Following this reasoning I ask if social support predicts the frequency of use of social networking sites and the types of use. It make sense that individuals use social media according to their existing levels of involvement in social ties. The effect of social support on social media use can be expected to have different forms.

  1. The “no-effects” hypothesis will argue that loneliness and social support will not affect the use. Individuals use social media for different motives (entertainment, keeping up to date) but do not attempt to change their existing levels of social support. In other words, the effect of social support on frequency and type of use will be statistically non-significant.
  2. The “detrimental effects” hypothesis argues that loneliness and social support are a stable individual personality characteristic that does not lead to a change in our use of social media. The lonely do not attempt to make friends face-to-face and do not attempt to this through social media. The ones having a high level of social support will keep up with their friends as this is a characteristic of their personality. Thus, social support is expected to have a positive effect on the use of social media, the more lonely a person feels the less the use and the higher the social support the more frequent the use.
  3. The “compensation” hypothesis suggest that individuals attempt to compensate for their lack of social support face-to-face attempting to connect with others through social media. Thus, in this framework social support is negatively associated with the frequency of use of social networking sites. The higher the social support the less the use. Conversely, the lower the perceived social support (the more lonely) the higher the frequency of use of SNS.

Data for this study Data for this study was collected on September 2009. The study included a sample of Internet users that were approached by a company that has expertise in the use of a panel of Internet users for conducting web based surveys.  In the study participated 1264 Internet users from Israel that answered a web based survey of 45 questions that took about 30 minutes to complete. The average age of the sample was 29.16 years old (S.d. 6.77), 44.1 percent were married and 55.9 percent single, 46 percent were males and 54 percent females. In terms of education 5.5 percent of the sample had less than high school education, 28.2.8 % had high school education, 58.1 partial or completed college education and 8.3 percent a graduate degree. Overall 62.7 percent reported using SNS on a daily or weekly basis.

The first table shows the results of a multivariate analysis predicting frequency of SNS use.


* Age and gender are not associated with the frequency of SNS use.

*The higher the education the lower the use of SNS.

*The single are more frequent uses of SNS than the single.

*Social support is positively associated with frequency of SNS use.  This finding supports the “detrimental hypothesis” lonely are less frequent users and the ones with high social support are higher users.

Yet, from recent research on college students, it is known that SNS are differentially used by different individuals. Some use the sites for maintaining social ties with family and close friends and others for the expansion of social ties.

How social support is associated with type of use, for social tie expansion and social tie maintenance? I conducted a multivariate analysis predicting different types of use.


The results are different according to the type of Internet use.

Using the Internet to maintain existing social ties is associated with

* Gender: Women use the Internet to maintain existing social ties more than men.

*Marital Status: the married use the Internet to maintain social ties.

*Social support is positively associated with using the Internet for the maintenance of existing social ties.
Using the Internet to expand  social ties is associated with

* Age and gender. Older individuals use more the Internet to expand social ties than younger and males use the Internet to expand their social ties more than women.

*Social support. The higher the perception of social support the lower the use of social networking sites to expand social ties. Conversely, the lonely are more likely to use SNS to expand social ties.

Some conclusions:

The results indicate that the association between perceived social support and the use of social networking sites provides support both for the detrimental and compensation hypothesis. The “detrimental” hypothesis is only supported for using the Internet for maintaining social ties. Individuals with high levels of social support use the Internet for maintaining ties with the existing friends and family. The “compensation” effect is supported for individuals with low social support that use the social media to expand their social ties.

Whether they are successful in their attempt, is a question that remains open for the next post, as I have the data to show this.

[1] Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Boneva, B., Cummings, J.; Helgeson, V.,&Crawford, J. (2001). The Internet Paradox Revisited. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 49-74

New Book on Youth and ICT

Gustavo S. Mesch and Ilan Talmud. (2010) Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age. Routledge and Psychology Press.

The debate on the social impact of information and communication technologies is particularly important for the study of adolescent life, because through their close association with friends and peers, adolescents develop life expectations, school aspirations, world views, and behaviors.

This book presents an up-to-date review of the literature on youth sociability, relationship formation, and online communication, examining the way young people use the internet to construct or maintain their inter-personal relationships. Using a social network perspective, the book systematically explores the various effects of internet access and use on adolescents’ involvement in social, leisure and extracurricular activities, evaluating the arguments that suggest the internet is displacing other forms of social ties. The core of the book investigates the motivations for online relationship formation and the use of online communication for relationship maintenance. The final part of the book focuses on the consequences, both positive and negative, of the use of online communication, such as increased social capital and online bullying.

Wired Youth is ideal for undergraduate and graduate students of adolescent psychology, youth studies, media studies and the psychology and sociology of interpersonal relationships.

More information at

Does social networking use increase self-esteem?

These are the results of my new paper, to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the MSS-NCSA in Chicago March 31-April 4 2010

The Effect of Social networking sites and online communication on Self-Esteem: A longitudinal Study.

Gustavo Mesch, Department of Sociology, U of Haifa

Self-esteem refers to the perception and evaluation that we have ‎about ourselves. Is the outcome of social interactions both with ‎significant and generalized others.‎
High self esteem has been linked to occupational success, healthy ‎social relationships and academic achievement. Low self esteem ‎to problematic outcomes including depressive symptoms and anti ‎social behavior. ‎
As online communication is more integrated in the social life of a ‎vast percentage of the population and social interaction is both ‎offline and online
RQ1: Does online social interaction affects self-esteem?‎
As the ecology of online communication is more diversified
RQ:2 Which types of online social interaction affect self-esteem? ‎

Previous studies limitations
‎1. limited to specific populations (college students and youth).‎
‎2. Examined SNS effects isolated from other CMC channels.‎
‎3. Mostly cross-sectional limiting conclusions that can be reached. ‎
‎4. Most of the studies do not differentiate purpose of SNS use.‎
This study used a longitudinal online survey of adult Internet ‎users and the effects of the frequency and types of use of Social ‎Networking Sites (SNS), e-mail, Instant Messenger (I.M.) and ‎weblogs on self esteem was studied. ‎
Theory and hypothesis: “sociometer hypothesis”‎
‎ According to this hypothesis self-esteem is essentially a ‎psychological meter, which monitors the quality of people’s ‎relationships with others, the extent that are being accepted or ‎rejected. Quality with others is monitored online and offline.‎
R1: What is the effect of frequency of SNS use, types of SNS ‎use and other online communication on changes in self-esteem ‎over time?‎
One important tenet of this perspective is that an important ‎antecedent of self esteem are changes in relational evaluations, the ‎degree to which we perceive that others regard their relationships ‎with us as valuable, important and close.‎
H1: Perceived social support is positively associated with changes ‎over time on self-esteem. The higher the perceived social support ‎the higher the positive change over time in self-esteem. ‎
The sociometer perspective assumes that evidence of low ‎
relational evaluation (particularly, a decrement in relational ‎evaluation is detected), the “sociometer” attracts the person’s ‎attention to the potential threat to social acceptance and motivates ‎him or her to action. Perceived social support reflects perceived ‎change in attitudes of others to us. ‎

H3: Social support is negatively associated with change over time ‎in the use of online communication channels. The lower the ‎perceived social support the higher the increase over time in the ‎use of SNS, e-mail, I.M. and Weblogs.‎

Data and methods
Longitudinal study of Internet users that responded to an online ‎survey that included 51 items asking their pattern of use of the ‎Internet and SNS. Data collection was conducted in April 2008 ‎and the second in September 2009 (n=455) ‎
Self-Esteem. Frequency of SNS use. SNS use for maintaing social ‎ties.SNS use for expanding social ties. Social support. E-mail, ‎I.M., Weblog use.Frequency of Internet use.Socio-demographic ‎variables. ‎
I used an ordinary least squares (OLS) lagged dependent ‎variable regression model, that is also called a conditional change ‎model to test the hypotheses

Average Age 29.14 years old (range 18-45 years old), ‎
Gender: 45 percent were male and 55 percent women. ‎
‎30 percent had high school education or less, 32 percent technical ‎or partial college education and 30 percent full college education. ‎
‎84.5 percent currently have a profile in a SNS, 69 percent ‎regularly use I.M., 24 percent write in a weblog and 99 percent ‎send and receive electronic mail. ‎
The most salient finding of this study is the effect of online communication use over time on self-esteem, supporting the argument that as ‎online communication has been integrated in everyday social interaction, online interactions have a real effect on self esteem.‎
Another important finding of the study relates to the use of SNS. Following previous studies it was assumed that frequency of use and type of ‎use will be associated with changes over time in self-esteem. Differentiating between different uses, it was found that the effect over time on the ‎psychological well-being of individuals is more likely to be positive. Our study also qualifies this finding and provides new insights to the ‎understanding of their role. Frequency of use and using SNS for conserving social ties was not associated with changes in self esteem. Yet, the ‎use for social tie expansion was found to be positively associated with changes in self-esteem. This result may be explained in terms of the role ‎of social comparison through the life cycle. During adulthood there is an increased need of comparisons with dissimilar others. Comparisons ‎with dissimilar others satisfy the need to feel unique, worthwhile and special. Furthermore professional and occupational competition fosters the ‎need for comparison with young individuals that compete in the same profession 3 .‎
‎ Following the sociometer hypothesis the study found that SNS are being used as compensation for lack of social support. Individuals that report ‎a low perception of social support, as predicted by the sociometer hypothesis are motivated to use SNS to expand their social ties (see findings of ‎Table 3) and to write in blogs (see findings Table 4). This motivation is consistent with the compensation hypothesis that argues that individuals ‎that report a low level of social support make use of online communication to compensate for the lack of support in face to face interacions. ‎However, the results of their actions seem to differ. An increase in the use of SNS for the expansion of social ties results in an increase in the ‎reported self esteem. Conversely, writing in a blog does not provide the expected outcome and an increase in the use of weblogs results in a ‎negative change in the reported perception of self-esteem. It is possible that the difference is associated with the different reactivity of the ‎platforms. Much of the blog writing might be read but less likely to create reactions among its readers.‎