Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 497–513 | Cite as

Online Mentoring: The Promise and Challenges of an Emerging Approach to Youth Development

  • Jean E. RhodesEmail author
  • Renée Spencer
  • Rebecca N. Saito
  • Cynthia L. Sipe

This paper reports on an electronic mentoring program, the Digital Heroes Campaign (DHC), in which 242 youth were matched with online mentors over a two-year period. Survey, focus group, and interview data, in addition to analyses of the e-mails that pairs exchanged, were examined in order to assess the nature, types, and quality of the relationships that were formed. Despite youths’ generally positive self-reports, deep connections between mentors and mentees appeared to be relatively rare. The findings suggest that online mentoring programs face significant challenges and that further research is needed to determine under what conditions online mentoring is likely to be most effective.

Editors' Strategic Implications: Given the infrequent occurrence of close connections, youth mentoring practitioners and researchers must consider whether online mentoring is likely to promote the kind of “relationships” that might be expected to promote positive youth development.


mentoring online support relationships intervention intergenerational 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean E. Rhodes
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Renée Spencer
    • 2
  • Rebecca N. Saito
    • 3
  • Cynthia L. Sipe
    • 4
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsBostonUSA
  2. 2.Boston University School of Social WorkBostonUSA
  3. 3.University of Minnesota Extenstion SeriveMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Youth Development StrategiesLansdaleUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts, BostonBostonUSA

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