Virtual possessions 'mean a lot' to teenagers

Virtual possessions are of great significance to teenagers, new research has found. Investigators from Carnegie Mellon University discovered that immaterial artefacts - such as social network updates, digital imagery and online music collections - mean as much to adolescents as prized belongings such as a book once read to them by their parents.

The team from the institution's Human-Computer Interaction Institute and School of Design noted that the fact these possessions are not tangible can serve to enhance their value.

John Zimmerman, Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction Design, said: "A digital photo is valuable because it is a photo but also because it can be shared and people can comment on it."

The investigation found that youngsters place more sentiment on a digital image that friends have tagged and annotated than they do with a picture that is stored away in a drawer.

Dr Arthur Cassidy, Chartered Psychologist, said: "Adolescent identities are extremely vulnerable and are driven by self regulation and other social psychological processes."

"This reported study can be further explained by developmental research on exploration of novel stimuli. Teenagers developmentally are still intrigued by virtual stimuli - especially that which can be easily manipulated and explored in terms of mental imagery. It has the potential to consolidate the self identity and allow for self elaboration."

Recent research published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that teenagers who drink alcohol are more likely to spend greater amounts of time on their computers than those who do not imbibe.