On LineRelationships


The internet can be a great way to meet new people. Some find it easier to talk online, and it can help you to say how you feel more openly.

A piece of research carried out by sexual health charity Brook and CEOP explored how young people use digital technologies in their romantic relationships. This is what they found:

It has been recognised that digital technologies are an important part of how young people ‘do’ their romantic relationships, from flirting, through to splitting up.

The research revealed that technology helps lots of things in young people’s lives, such as intimacy, connection, friendship and the ability to feel ‘more me’. However the use of technology didn’t seem to replace face-to-face relationships. Young people still liked a mix of digital and in-person contact and communication.

Communicating online was seen as a way of avoiding face-to-face awkwardness and embarrassment. So when it comes to asking someone out, we might imagine that most young people would do so online. But in fact more young people reported asking someone out offline (48%) than on (42%).

Young people described how technology could provide the opportunity for intimacy with a partner away from onlookers and the possible ‘drama’ and gossip that other people might bring.

Young people seemed to understand online risks and how to avoid them, but data also suggested that there were three important factors that might prevent them from applying their knowledge of ‘online safety’ in everyday life:

• Powerful social norms about what is ‘normal’

• Desire for friendship, popularity, status, sex and/or relationship experiences

• Lack of non-judgemental support available to young people

The research found that technology enabled some young people to have intimate and supportive relationships that might not otherwise have happened (especially for those in minority groups and those who had felt isolated or less confident in face-to-face interactions). It brought to light ways in which technology had supported many young people in flirting, having fun, becoming closer, communicating and expressing desires, and building confidence. Some also described technology as equipping them with positive control, some freedom from negative judgements and pressures, and space to be authentic (themselves). It was found that social media is often used in positive ways in challenging situations. There were examples of technology being used to offer public support, to publicly condemn unkindness and discrimination, and to coordinate group efforts against those posing a risk or acting harmfully.

So, it was recognised that technology provides many opportunities and is essential to the lives of young people. However, it seems that it hasn’t replaced in-person experiences and communication. It doesn’t define young love lives, it just provides another space in which to have them. A number of young people still talked about offline as ‘the real world’, although this was not the case for everyone. Furthermore, the majority of young people surveyed generally preferred and placed greater value on face to-face communication.

There are some extra things to think about if you’re doing relationships online. It’s important to be aware of online safety, how to recognise when things are not going well and what to do if you’re worried. Check out the websites below for some useful information about how to stay safe online.

CLICK HERE to read more about online safety.

Also CLICK HERE for more info about keeping safe and online bullying.