Students explore digital friendship

Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date published: 25 November 2015

Selfies, self-worth, and sharing online

OLDHAM students have taken part in university research studying how modern technology affects friendships.

Oldham Hulme Grammar School attended the Exploring Digital Relationships debate with students from All Hallows’ Catholic College and The King’s School Girls’ Division in Macclesfield.

Members of the public and parents also took part in the study at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The audience was equipped with smart phones and iPads to anonymously submit their experiences and opinions as part of the research into online friendships.

For young people especially, digital technology is embedded into their lives — with 81 per cent of UK 13 to 18 year olds now owning a smartphone, meaning social media can be accessed at any time.

Online gaming also provides a large platform for people to connect with others and socialise in a virtual setting. As a result, young people are more exposed to strangers online so have higher chances of developing and maintaining digital friendships.

Cathy Urquhart, professor of digital and sustainable enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan University and the debate leader, said: “I want to thank everyone who attended our inspirational event on digital friendship. We had a fantastic interactive discussion on the nature of digital friendship.

“We used a voting software with the school students to allow them to anonymously share concerns about everything from cyberbullying to opinions about the tremendous support they get from online friends.

“We discussed selfies, self-worth, and the critical issue of what to share on line.”

The event had a panel of speakers that included Dr Jenny Cole, senior lecturer in psychology, who spoke about the current research into the psychology of online relationships.

Liz Hardwick, the co-founder of DigiEnable, discussed the positive aspects of digital friendship while Hannah Plews, peer mentor co-ordinator at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, shared stories of victims of cyberbullying and commented on the negative aspects.

Student peer mentors from Hulme also shared how technology can help those struggling. The students spoke about tootoot, which is the first safeguarding platform and app used in primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, and universities, which allows students to safely report any worries, incidents or issues.

Dr Bex Lewis, senior lecturer in digital marketing at the university and the author of “Raising Children in a Digital Age”, also offered advice on staying safe online.

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