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Computer-mediated communication in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI)

Durkin, Kevin and Conti-Ramsden, G. and Walker, A. (2010) Computer-mediated communication in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI). Computers in Human Behaviour, 26 (2). pp. 176-185. ISSN 0747-5632

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The various uses of computer-mediated communication (CMC) are transforming the nature of social interactions and human relations among adolescents. Little is known about engagement of exceptional youth with this technology. The present study investigated the implications of language and social factors for frequency of CMC use and its relationship to adolescent well-being in young people with and without a history of specific language impairment (SLI). Eighty six adolescents with a history of SLI and 90 typically developing 17 year olds participated. Participants completed standardized assessments of psycholinguistic abilities and self-report measures of language motivations and social motivations for CMC use, as well as anxiety and depression. Results indicate that language abilities have a complex relationship with frequency of CMC use; social abilities have a more direct association and are predictive of frequency of CMC use. Both adolescents with SLI and typically developing adolescents were less shy online. No association was obtained between frequency of CMC use and reported emotional symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. It is argued that the characteristics of CMC, in terms of its less stringent language demands and its reduced-cues environment, can provide a medium for positive adaptation of adolescents with communication challenges.