Making friends online can be a great experience for your child—building new relationships, finding common interests and passions, and inspiring them to reach their goals. But as parents, it's important to understand the risks that come with putting yourself out there on the internet.
Luckily, if you’re aware of potential concerns and take precautions for safety, there are plenty of ways your child can form meaningful connections in an online setting without sacrificing security or privacy.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to make friends online as a kid across different platforms, highlighting both its benefits and safety issues. So that you, as loving parent or guardian, can stay informed while encouraging your children to expand their social circle!
Can online friends be real friends?
“Back in the day,” making friends meant meeting people in person, bonding over common interests, exchanging phone numbers, maybe even mailing a letter or two.
But now, with the rise of social media and online communities, our definition of friendship has undergone an evolution. Sure, our kids may not be going to play dates or hitting up the cinema with most of their online buddies, but does that mean they can't be “real” friends?
Regarding this debate, there is a big debate about it. Some argue that the lack of physical interaction and face-to-face communication means that online friendships can never be as meaningful as offline ones. On the other hand, others believe that the bond formed through shared interests and conversations can be just as strong as any “real” relationship.
For us, friendships are built on shared experiences, trust, and connection, and those things can certainly happen online. From gaming squads to online social groups, the internet has created spaces for people to connect and find support in ways they may not have been able to otherwise.
So, are online friends real friends? Absolutely! In fact, a study conducted by the University of Michigan found that online friendships can actually be just as strong as face-to-face friendships.
5 Benefits of online friends
1. More diverse range of people and perspectives
Making online friends from different backgrounds can help children become more understanding and tolerant of different opinions, cultures, and ways of life. It can also provide them with a greater appreciation for the nuances of language, art, and literature.
Additionally, being exposed to such diversity allows children to develop empathy towards people who are different from them – an invaluable trait that will benefit them throughout their lives.
2. Support during difficult times
Having friends online can provide children with additional support during difficult times, especially when they struggle to make “real life friends”.
Whether it’s bullying or dealing with other issues at home or at school, having someone to talk to who understands their perspective and can provide advice based on their own experiences can be invaluable.
Plus, if a child is struggling with mental health issues, online friends may be the only ones available to them since they don’t have access to in-person support.
3. A safe place for introverts and neurodivergent
Online friends can provide a safe space for introverts, kids with social anxiety or those who are neurodivergent. Introverts may find it difficult to build relationships in person, as they often have trouble expressing themselves. Instead, they may be more comfortable speaking with people online, as they can take their time and think before responding.
On the other hand, neurodivergence can make it difficult to build relationships in person, as social interactions can typically be overwhelming. With online friendships, neurodivergent individuals are less likely to be judged and have more control over their conversations.
Additionally, they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves, as they don’t need to worry about how they come across or managing physical cues in order to read the situation.
4. Improve digital literacy skills
As kids interact with other people in an online context, they are exposed to different viewpoints, create new ideas and learn how to communicate more effectively in a digital space. Additionally, interacting with others can also broaden their knowledge on different topics and subjects, helping them build a better understanding of the world.
Furthermore, conversations over the internet involve more active communication than other forms such as television and radio, further developing their digital literacy skills.
5. Forge relationships that can continue into adulthood
Making online friends can help forge relationships that can continue into adulthood. Online conversations allow people to be more open and honest, creating a strong bond of trust over time. Additionally, online friendships are often built on shared interests, which can create a deeper level of understanding as people learn more about each other.
As these relationships progress, both parties can gain a great deal of insight and inspiration from one another, encouraging them to strive towards their goals. These lifelong connections can be invaluable when navigating different stages in life.
Why online friendships are bad?
While Internet best friends can be beneficial to a certain degree, there still exists potential risks if not approached in the right way. Here are five potential risks of online friendships for kids:
Inappropriate content: Online conversations can typically expose kids to inappropriate language, topics, and images.
Malicious intent: Predators may try to use the internet as a way to gain access to young people’s private information or manipulate them in other ways.
Social isolation: Spending too much time interacting with people online can lead to a lack of face-to-face communication over time, ultimately affecting social skills later on in life.
Unhealthy competition: Comparing oneself with the seemingly perfect lives of others can lead to feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem.
Cyberbullying: Kids are particularly vulnerable to bullying due to their naivety and lack of experience when it comes to managing online interactions.
That’s why it's important to remind kids of the importance of safety when it comes to making online friends. As parents, we must help our children navigate the digital world with caution and care. After all, the internet may bring us closer together, but it can also be a dangerous place if we're not careful.
How to make online friends safely?
Here are 4 ways for kids to make online friends in a safe and secure way:
Join an age-appropriate chatroom or discussion forum, such as those found on platforms like Reddit, where users can discuss topics of mutual interest.
Participate in online gaming communities that allow for players to connect with each other and form friendships virtually.
Connect through social media networks and meet other people who share similar interests or hobbies. Make sure to only accept friend requests from people you actually know and trust in real life to ensure privacy and security when interacting with strangers online.
Join an online social group: An online social group can be a great way for kids to make friends and build relationships. Online platforms allow them to connect with others from around the globe, giving them an opportunity to explore other cultures and make friends from diverse backgrounds.
Moreover, it allows kids to develop their social skills in a safe and secure environment as they learn how to use digital etiquette when interacting with others online. Additionally, virtual friendships can open up opportunities for growth and personal development that may not be available in more traditional settings.
Do you want to join Boo’s Battalion social squad? Apply today!
Making Internet best friends: Final Thoughts
Making Internet best friends as kids is definitely not the same as making friends in real life. However, it doesn't mean it's any less special or valid. In fact, the bond you can form with someone through a screen can be just as powerful and heartfelt as one in person.
Whether it's sharing memes, discussing your favorite TV shows, or venting about school problems, having an internet best friend can provide a source of support and understanding that is sometimes hard to find elsewhere.
Of course, there are always risks and dangers involved with forming online friendships, but that's true for anything in life. As long as you take necessary precautions and use common sense, the benefits of having an internet best friend can outweigh the risks.
Now that you know how to make friends online as a kid, the benefits, and the risks, it’s time to let your kiddo navigate *safely* through the world of online friendships. If you want to join the best social group squad, apply to Boo’s Battalion, and don’t forget to check our blogs on Internet safety!