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How important are your friends?

There is lots of research showing the importance of strong friendships in our lives no matter how old we are. Having one or more good friends has been associated with positive mental, physical and emotional health. Friendships can improve your confidence, give you social support and reduce feelings of loneliness, especially when times are hard. With this in mind, we conducted a large scale study to investigate the importance of friendship quality when it comes to cyberbullying. It is not that we thought that having strong friendships would prevent cyberbullying, but, that we thought they might ‘buffer’ the negative impact if victimisation did happen. In order to test this, we delivered a survey online to over two thousand Irish students between the ages of 12 and 16 years and asked them lots of questions about their experiences of cyberbullying and their friendships.

Using some statistical analyses techniques, we were able to determine that strong friendship quality was indeed very important for our young people today. Overall we found that people who both cyberbullied AND were cyber victims themselves had significantly worse friendship quality compared to those who were not involved. We also found that certain factors when combined might lead to an increased risk of developing emotional or depressive symptoms. For example, being a girl, having poor friendship quality and being a victim of cyberbullying was associated with depression. This study shows that positive and strong friendships should be promoted at the school and community level, for example through sport or hobbies. In some ways, spending time with you friends are not just nice but also really important!

You can find out more about our study here:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01723/full

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