Researchers believe this use of social networking is especially suitable for teens who spend a vast majority of their time online.
According to Israeli researchers, blogging allows teens to freely express themselves and can be an easy method to improve communication among peers.
“Research has shown that writing a personal diary and other forms of expressive writing are a great way to release emotional distress and just feel better,” said the study’s lead author, Meyran Boniel-Nissim, Ph.D., of the University of Haifa, Israel.
Investigators discovered that for troubled teens, online documentation and maintaining a blog was more effective in improving self-esteem and relationship development than journaling in a private diary. Researchers believe the interactivity of an open blog is key factor toward helping teens reduce their social anxieties.
The study is discussed online in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychological Services.
“Although cyber-bullying and online abuse are extensive and broad, we noted that almost all responses to our participants’ blog messages were supportive and positive in nature,” said the study’s co-author, Azy Barak, PhD. “We weren’t surprised, as we frequently see positive social expressions online in terms of generosity, support and advice.”
The researchers randomly surveyed high school students in Israel, who had agreed to fill out a questionnaire about their feelings on the quality of their social relationships.
A total of 161 students — 124 girls and 37 boys, with an average age of 15 — were selected because their scores on the survey showed they all had some level of social anxiety or distress. All the teens reported difficulty making friends or relating to the friends they had.
The researchers assessed the teens’ self-esteem, everyday social activities and behaviors before, immediately after and two months after the 10-week experiment.
Four groups of students were assigned to blog. Two of those groups were told to focus their posts on their social problems, with one group opening the posts to comments; the other two groups could write about whatever they wanted and, again, one group opened the blog up to comments.
Two more groups acted as controls – either writing a private diary about their social problems or doing nothing. Participants in the writing and blogging groups were told to post messages at least twice a week for 10 weeks.
Experts then assessed the bloggers’ social and emotional condition via their blog posts. Students were assessed as having a poor social and emotional state if they wrote extensively about personal problems or bad relationships or showed evidence of low self-esteem, for example.
Researchers discovered positive social behaviors were expressed by bloggers when compared to teens who did nothing and those who wrote private diaries. Improvements in self-esteem, social anxiety and emotional distress were noted among the bloggers.
Bloggers who were instructed to write specifically about their difficulties and whose blogs were open to comments improved the most. All of these results were consistent at the two-month followup.
Although the study was skewed with a preponderance of female teens, the authors analyzed the results separately by gender and found that boys and girls reacted similarly to the interventions and there were no major differences. Nevertheless, future research efforts will attempt to control for gender.