Sally Quinn and Julian Oldmeadow of the University of York said previous research suggested online communication was associated with increased closeness to friends and friendship quality.
"We know children age 13 and under are increasingly using social networking sites, but little research has focused on the effects of friendship for this age group," Quinn said in a statement. "Our study examined links to group belonging for boys ages between 9-13."
The study involved 443 children -- 49 percent boys -- from five primary schools and two secondary schools in England who completed questionnaires that asked questions such as "How long have you been using a social networking site to contact your friends in your group?" and "How often do you use a social networking site to contact your friends in your group?"
Feelings of belonging were measured on a five-point scale.
"The results showed that older boys who used social networking sites showed greater feelings of belonging to their friendship group than those who did not use social networking sites," Quinn said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology.