Adolescents’ online self-disclosure – risky or beneficial?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Muireann McSwiney
Submitted: June 2011

Online activity is a major feature of adolescents’ culture and social interactions. ‘Blogs’ and ‘instant messenger’ provide ample means through which they can pursue pertinent adolescent concerns such as self-presentation, relationship formation and identity exploration. Certain features of computer-mediated communications mean that online self-disclosures are psychologically and qualitatively different to those made offline. The anonymity and controllability of the internet mean that it is fertile ground for identity experimentation through self-disclosure and the feedback received can shape and validate adolescents’ emergent identity. Online self-disclosure carries with it many benefits, as well as the risks so frequently sensationalised in the media. The benefits can include supportive and healthy relationships formed online and enrichment of existing relationships offline. The potential negative consequences of online self-disclosure will also be explored including abusive messaging and the idealisation of one’s communication partner. Research into self-disclosure is not without limitations and these will be outlined. Complete prohibition of adolescents’ online self-disclosure is unrealistic and ineffective. It is reasonable to suggest that there are as many risks in offline disclosure as there are online. Online self-disclosure is concluded to be a positive activity.  The implications of adolescents’ online self-disclosure for educational psychologists are also discussed.

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