My kids' ONLY friends are their online pals. Should I worry?

For some kids who are shy, not very secure socially, or simply interested in a topic their real-world friends aren't into, the online world can be a lifesaver. Some kids feel emboldened to experiment creatively, meet new people, pursue their interests, and try new things in a way they wouldn't feel comfortable doing in person. Your kid also may just be going through a phase or may not talk about his or her "real" friends.

But, if your kids are unable to make friends at school or through groups, if they can only find happiness online, and if they pursue the online world to the exclusion of in-person relationships and experiences, you might need to intervene. Even though today's kids socialize a lot online, they actually prefer face-to-face interactions. Consider whether these issues point to underlying issues that may have nothing to do with being online but might be signs of depression, being bullied, or other offline issues, and, of course, seek outside help if necessary. Also be aware that kids whose social lives revolve around the online world can be led into risky situations. Make sure your online-oriented kid understands that people can misrepresent themselves online, and that they should never give money, photos, or personal information to or meet anyone that they've only had contact with online. 

Ask Our Experts
Was this answer helpful?
Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts


Kid, 11 years old

If they only befriend people online, then there may be a problem. Things that may be negatively impacting them in real life such as bullying make them lean towards the internet for friends and social interaction. Or they just find it easier to create bonds with users they meet on the web and not face-to-face. Either way, you should just confront them about it. My mother tells me not to talk to strangers online because they could, "take advantage of me" or "track me down" which is not very likely to happen because I don't give out personal information. If your kid is smart enough to know what information is not okay to give out and you've discussed that with them, I don't see much of a problem in letting them have online friends. It is a good idea to speak with users your child has befriended and analyze because you can never be too careful. Keep in mind that it is important for your kid to have good relationships both online and offline. Hope I helped!
Teen, 15 years old written by I'mkewl

If your kids friends are ONLY online, go to a park and stay there till they make friends Xoxo
Teen, 13 years old written by Bibimimi

My parents do not like me having online friends, I can see why though because you don't know who they really are, but I do not fit in at school. I have 2 true friends that are loyal and one is leaving soon. I think having online friends is fine. I've made lots of friends online and they're nice to me! Nicer than people at my school.. at least online friends don't judge you(?)
Teen, 14 years old written by EmoChildThing

This is completely fine. I have internet friends and i trust them more that anyone in the world. If the child is unexperienced to the media, it is probably unsafe. But if this kid knows what they are doing, i dont see any harm. However, it could be a problem not having friends other than the internet. People shouldnt be against internet friends as long as a trust is formed and the kid knows who enough info of the person.
Teen, 13 years old written by a.f.2003

A parent would not know who those people are at all. They do not know if they are adults pretending to be kids just to get private information. They do not know if they are pedophiles looking for young children to prey upon. They do not know if those people on the Internet are bad people looking to cause any types of harm to their children. But they could also just be normal children. But you don't know that. So I say yes, it is not good that your child's only friends are people online. It would probably be best for your child to communicate with kids at their own school or town.
Teen, 13 years old written by gabeb

no. a lot of my friends and my friends' friends are on the internet. you find people on the internet that have the same interests as you and you have this bond that you might not be able to have with someone at your school. if they ask your child for inappropriate pictures or personal information, then have your child block and report the messages that that person has sent. if your child adds an internet friend on snapchat and when they start sending each other snapchats and your child can verify that they are actually their age and they are a real person, then you shouldn't worry.
Teen, 13 years old written by a.f.2003

You actually wouldn't know if that person was pretending to be someone else. Even though it may be illegal, it's hard to track people down online, so people try to pretend to be other people to lurk on young teenagers
Parent written by _malloryelisepage_

Yes you should be worried this is not safe although it is okay to have some friends online you need to know them or at least know about them. Your kid needs to interact with people around him and live life.
Kid, 12 years old

Well most of my friends are online because no one in real life gets me. I've come out as trans to my friends and they all laugh and say "it's just a phase" "you're too young to know" where as my online friends accept me. I've met so many wonderful people through the lgbt+ community. My online friends accept me. Help me. It's ok for your child(s) to have only online friends or a lot of online friends. They're just better. Leave them to make more.
Teen, 13 years old written by gabeb

i fully support you and it seems that the only people that sometimes people on the internet are the only people you have to go to, are kids our age.
Kid, 12 years old

Story of my life. Every heard of the phrase "Well you have a while to decide what job you want."? I hear it all the time. All because i know what I want to do. And then my mom get's mad because i'm always on my iPad, but i'm homeschooled and I only have 4 friends, all of which have to go to school and are never home to talk to. Okay I'm done ranting. Carry on.
Teen, 14 years old written by JesusLovinTexan

I'm 14 and most of my friends are online but some of them I met them in person and we just contact each other through social media. And then I have some friends that I actually met online and they're that have Christian anonymous accounts on Twitter. And it's always been hard for me to make friends. I have a good bit of social awkwardness. My parents are actually okay with me having online friends because I'm being social even though it's online. I've dealt with depression and anxiety issues for the last few months and my "online" friends have been helping me and been praying for me. People talk about all the bad people in the world and online. What's different between the two? There's a lot of good people online too. You just have to look.
Teen, 14 years old written by kitty47

I would be quite worried, your kids need to learn to socialized more. It's okay to make friends online but that is absurd. I would limit your children's internet time and plan play dates or something for them.
Teen, 17 years old written by broadway.obsessed

I would be worried, partially because I do understand your kid's perspective, far too well. A majority (not all though) of my friends are online, and this isn't all a bad thing. The internet is wonderful for meeting people with similar values and interests, and in high school, where most of the population is constantly working to "fit in" (hiding a lot of their true personalities), it can be difficult to find people you relate to. So maybe your kid is super unique and creative and unafraid to be themselves, and in this case, I applaud them. The issue is that these qualities (which are terrific) can make inter-personal relationships tricky when young. These are the kids who are usually not treated as well, and may not get along well with other kids their age who are more worried about how others view them. Still, I wouldn't worry unless you have reason to believe they are being bullied. But another reason one may have trouble making "real life" friends is social anxiety. This is my case, and trust me, it is not a fun one. This goes beyond being shy or reserved. Try to notice your child's behaviour... what are the feelings they express towards school? Do they seem nervous or bitter about going? Do you know if they are prone to panic attacks? Are they involved with any extra curricular activities? Don't be afraid to ask them about some of these things as well; if they are bullied or dealing with anxiety, or anything else really, talking to them is probably the best way to assess the situation.
Adult written by MichaelDu

To an extent... some people online can be better than some IRL that are mean... but is they do remind them that you care too. Because a lot of young people go to sites with friends they talk too. remind them to be aware of what they are posting. things online don't appear what they seem. There are also many positive things to find people online that have similar interest that have the same shyness as they do. but also tell them its not the end of the world if they leave for a few hours then if they panic you don't yell or tell them to avoid them. just tell them calmly is everything is ok? because two things can happen. 1. they start saying whats wrong, 2. they stop instantly feeling awkward and say nothing is wrong and they stay quiet. tell them if you like to skype tell them if they would like to see their friend if either decline start thinking on how to help your child understand if they don't like parents saying hi for 5 seconds then be on guard
Teen, 13 years old written by gmvyoshi

Yes! You should definitely worry if your kids ONLY friends are online!! But, yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking..."this is just some 13-year-old trying to give me a useless answer... And blah...blah...blah." But I'm cool with it. So, fine, ok, don't listen to me on this..? That's your problem because I do have useful info. .... You see, it is a problem about your child's social life.(and this is absolutely nothing against your child) Your child should have the opportunity to make friends and aqquantences (I know, it's spelled wrong, don't judge). Here's the question: do you homeschool your child? (There is nothing wrong with homeschooling your children, it's just a rhetorical question) if you do homeschool him/her, I'm sure you are doing nothing wrong as far as teaching the child, but what you ARE doing (unless maybe he/she is involved in extra-curricular activities outside of school) is keeping your child away from other children (probably unintentionally or maybe that IS why you homeschool him/her). Get the child involved in activities, unless you already are, then I don't know what to tell you except to start thinking about sending him/her to a public school. On the other hand, if he/she does go to a school and is not homeschooled, then, in my opinion, there is only one reason the child is not making friends. And that reason is:he/she spending too much time on social media and feels they have no time for real friends or they don't want friends, which I doubt. .... Here's my answer:talk to your child about the whole friends thing. Ask them what they think. I sure wish my parents would talk to me the way I'm telling you to talk to your child.
Adult written by legallieblonde

Yes, I would be worried. While I am not a parent, I am a sibling and a friend-- and if I noticed someone I cared about becoming more and more focused on the internet I would be worried. The internet is great because it can connect someone who may be shy in real life with a million other shy people who are great at expressing their personalities and creativity online. However, the internet can also be a dark place full of too-introverted, depressed people who turn to forums and chatrooms instead of getting help for their problems. Your child needs inter-personal communication with peers their age in real life. If they have trouble fitting in with school, figure out what one of their online interests are and find a RL group; for example, are they gaming online? Go to your local roleplay/boardgame store and let them play new games in real life. Are they chatting about anime or art? Sign them up for art classes at a rec place or nearby studio. Hope this helps and your child gains healthy, interpersonal relationships!