WhatsApp groups may allow teenagers to better express themselves and develop closer relationships with their peers than classroom interactions, a new study has found. Youngsters around the world use the WhatsApp application as a means of interpersonal and group communication. Most of them spend many hours in this virtual world, particularly in the evening and at night when they are alone in their room.
The study, led by Arie Kizel from the University of Haifa in Israel, sought to examine the way young people experience this virtual space. The research included two groups of eight youths aged 16 -17 and two groups of eight youths aged 14-15. The groups included equal numbers of boys and girls.
Participants analysed texts taken from the class WhatsApp group. They regarded the virtual domain a place where they can have a special intimacy that is not possible in other domains, and that facilitates informal relationships. “The participants in the study described WhatsApp as a place where there is respect for language and where all those involved share common terms and signs,” Kizel was quoted as saying by the ‘Jewish Press’.
“The group chats are based on trust among the members of the group, and this enhances the possibility to be in contact,” he said. The participants also perceive the WhatsApp group as a space that breaks down the hierarchical division created at school. The study shows that the school domain often divides the class into fixed groups and friendships, created on the basis of socioeconomic status, common activities or study tracks, and so forth.
The WhatsApp groups break down these divisions and make the class a single, homogenous group. The study also found that the young people feel that the use of icons and emojis is richer than physical gestures.