Objective: Social networking sites (SNSs) are increasingly used for research. This paper reports on two studies examining the feasibility of friending adolescents on SNSs for research purposes. Methods: Study 1 took place on www.MySpace.com where public profiles belonging to 18-year-old adolescents received a friend request from an unknown physician. Study 2 took place on www.Facebook.com where college freshmen from two US universities, enrolled in an ongoing research study, received a friend request from a known researcher´s profile. Acceptance and retention rates of friend requests were calculated for both studies.
Results: Study 1: 127 participants received a friend request; participants were 18 years-old, 62.2% male and 51.8% Caucasian. 49.6% accepted the friend request. After 9 months, 76% maintained the online friendship, 12.7% defriended the study profile and 11% deactivated their profile. Study 2: 338 participants received a friend request; participants were 18 years-old, 56.5% female and 75.1% Caucasian. 99.7% accepted the friend request. Over 12 months, 3.3% defriended the study profile and 4.1% deactivated their profile. These actions were often temporary; the overall 12-month friendship retention rate was 96.1%.
Conclusion: Friending adolescents on SNSs is feasible and friending adolescents from a familiar profile may be more effective for maintaining online friendship with research participants over time.