Connecting Offline Social Competence to Online Peer Interactions

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Decades of research have documented the importance of social competence in children’s development and the risks of lacking these skills for physical, social, emotional, and academic outcomes. Social interactions today are increasingly technologically mediated, with a large number of children and adolescents interacting with others online. Nonetheless, little effort has been made to connect the construct of social competence to online interactions. This article reviews recent research (up to 2014) on social interactions online and tries to identify ways in which components of social competence from offline settings (e.g., adaptability, social skills, perspective-taking) might apply to online contexts. Challenges of applying the construct to online peer interactions are highlighted and the current gaps in research are identified, raising questions about whether social competence from offline settings can be applied to online ones. Lastly, this review argues for the need for more research directly assessing competence in social interactions online, especially in light of user characteristics such as age and gender.

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