The Surprising Way Most Teens Are Making (and Keeping) New Friends

They're not meeting on the playground anymore.

Photo by Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

Do you feel like your teenager is spending most of the day glued to a phone screen? You're not too far off. A new survey from the Pew Research Center reveals the surprising ways that technology intersects with teen friendships—and the results show that 57 percent of teens have made at least one new friend online. Even more surprisingly, only 20 percent of those digital friends ever meet in person.

While teens do connect with their friends face-to-face outside of school, they spend 55 percent of their day texting with friends, and only 25 percent of teens are spending actual time with their friends on a daily basis (outside of school hallways). These new forms of communication are key in maintaining friendships day-to-day—27 percent of teens instant message their friends every day, 23 percent connect through social media every day, and 7 percent even video chat daily. Text messaging remains the main form of communication—almost half of survey respondents say it's their chosen method of communication with their closest friend.

While girls are more likely to text with their close friends, boys are meeting new friends (and maintaining friendships) in the gaming world—89 percent play with friends they know, and 54 percent play with online-only friends. Whether they're close with their teammates or not, online gamers say that playing makes them feel "more connected" to friends they know, or gamers they've never met.

When making new friends, social media has also become a major part of the teenage identity—62 percent of teens are quick to share their social media usernames when connecting with a new friend (although 80 percent still consider their phone number the best method of contact). Despite the negative consequences—21 percent of teenage users feel worse about their lives because of posts they see on social media—teens also have found support and connection through various platforms. In fact, 68 percent of teens received support during a challenging time in their lives via social media platforms.

Just as technology has become a gateway for new friendships, or a channel to stay connected with current friends, it can also make a friendship breakup more public. The study reveals that girls are more likely to block or unfriend former allies, and 68 percent of all teenage users report experiencing "drama among their friends on social media."