woman on mobileNearly 6 of 10 U.S. teens ages 13-17 (57 percent) have made a new friend online. Social media and online game playing were the most common digital media channels teens used to strike up new friendships, according to Pew Research Center.

Three in 10 (29 percent) said they have made more than five friendships online. On the other hand, only 2 in 10 teens have met an online friend in person.

Boys are more likely than girls to make online friends: 61% of boys compared to 52% of girls have done so. Older teens are also more likely than younger teens to make online friends. Some 60 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 have met a friend online, compared with 51 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds.

Pew Teens Online Research
More than 6 in 10 teens who have made an online friendship (64 percent) have done so via social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram. Ranking second among online venues for initiating teen friendships was network video game playing (36 percent).

Teenage girls who have made online friendships are more likely to have made them via social than their male counterparts – 78 vs. 52 percent. Boys, in contrast, are far more likely to have met new friends while playing games online (57 vs. 13 percent).

Furthermore, text messaging is an important communications channel for teens, who  tend to spend at least some time every day texting with friends. Just 25 percent of teens spend time with friends in person outside of school on a daily basis.

Texting is the dominant daily communications channel for many teens, Pew found: 9 in 10 (88 percent) text friends at least occasionally, while more than half (55 percent) do so daily.

Besides texting, teens are taking advantage of several other devices, communications platforms and online venues with friends. These include:

  • Instant messaging: 79 percent of all teens instant message their friends; 27% do so daily.
  • Social media: 72 percent of all teens spend time with friends via social media; 23% do so daily.
  • Email: 64% of all teens use email with friends; 6% do so daily.
  • Video chat: 59% of all teens video chat with their friends; 7% video chat with friends daily.
  • Video games: 52% of all teens spend time with friends playing video games; 13% play with friends daily.
  • Messaging apps: 42% of all teens spend time with friends on messaging apps such as Kik and WhatsApp; 14% do so every day.

Gaming is Social for Boys
More than 7 in 10 teens play video games on a computer, game console or portable. More than 8 in 10 teen boys (84 percent) do, much higher than the nearly 6 in 10 girls who do (59 percent).

More than 8 in 10 teens (83 percent) play games with others in person and three-quarters do so online. They also play games with friends they know in person (89 percent) and friends they know only online (54 percent). They play online games with strangers (52 percent).

In addition, Pew found:

  • 38% of all teen boys share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information exchanged when they meet someone they would like to be friends with; just 7% of girls share a gaming handle when meeting new friends.
  • Of teens who have met a friend online, 57% of boys have made a friend playing video games. That amounts to 34% of all teenage boys ages 13 to 17.