More than one in three teenagers have gone on to meet someone they first encountered online, according to a new survey by Radio One’s Newsbeat program.
The survey of more than 1,000 British teenagers aged between 15 and 18 was carried out by ComRes, and found that 36% said they had gone on to meet someone they’d first interacted with while using social media.
A quarter (25%) of those surveyed also said they felt happier online than they did in real life. But overall, real-life relationships are still considered far more important than online ones, according to the findings.
In addition, 38% also said that they had friends or followers online that they had never met in person.
Dr Emma Short, a psychologist for the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research at the University of Bedfordshire said: “The fact that a third have met someone they met online is worrying and concerning. They have lost sight – to a degree – of the risk because anyone that you meet online, even if you negotiate with them, talk to them, they are still actually a stranger.
“You only know what they’re telling you in chat. You only have the words on the screen. You don’t know if they are who they say they are. Even though it feels a safe place, it’s really important to never mistake an online contact for anything other than a stranger.”
Newsbeat’s statistics also revealed that one in eight teenagers asked said their online friends know them better than their real friends, with half adding that it was important for them to check social media as soon as they received a notification.
View this video showing the poll findings here: