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Transformation of Adolescent Peer Relations in the Social Media Context: Part 2—Application to Peer Group Processes and Future Directions for Research


As social media use becomes increasingly widespread among adolescents, research in this area has accumulated rapidly. Researchers have shown a growing interest in the impact of social media on adolescents’ peer experiences, including the ways that the social media context shapes a variety of peer relations constructs. This paper represents Part 2 of a two-part theoretical review. In this review, we offer a new model for understanding the transformative role of social media in adolescents’ peer experiences, with the goal of stimulating future empirical work that is grounded in theory. The transformation framework suggests that the features of the social media context transform adolescents’ peer experiences by changing their frequency or immediacy, amplifying demands, altering their qualitative nature, and/or offering new opportunities for compensatory or novel behaviors. In the current paper, we consider the ways that social media may transform peer relations constructs that often occur at the group level. Our review focuses on three key constructs: peer victimization, peer status, and peer influence. We selectively review and highlight existing evidence for the transformation of these domains through social media. In addition, we discuss methodological considerations and key conceptual principles for future work. The current framework offers a new theoretical perspective through which peer relations researchers may consider adolescent social media use.

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This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship [DGE-1144081] awarded to Jacqueline Nesi. This work was also supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health [R01-MH85505, R01-HD055342] grants awarded to Mitchell J. Prinstein.

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Correspondence to Jacqueline Nesi.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NIH or NSF.

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Nesi, J., Choukas-Bradley, S. & Prinstein, M.J. Transformation of Adolescent Peer Relations in the Social Media Context: Part 2—Application to Peer Group Processes and Future Directions for Research. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 21, 295–319 (2018).

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  • Adolescents
  • Social media
  • Review
  • Peer influence
  • Peer status
  • Cyber victimization