Contrary to the notion that teens would prefer their parents to butt out of their social media life, a new study finds that “friending” and other social media interactions between kids and parents creates stronger filial bonds.
The study by Brigham Young University also finds that teens who maintain an online social relationship with their parents tend to exhibit more socially positive behaviors, such as kindness, generosity and lower levels of aggression.
Conversely, teen social networking without parental involvement is associated with more negative outcomes, such as increased aggression, internalizing behaviors, delinquency and decreased feelings of connection.
Half of the teens in the study — 491 kids ages 12-17 — reported being on social network sites with their parents. 16% said they interact with their parents every day through social media. The more frequently parents used social media to interact with teens, the stronger the perceived connection.
The study was conducted by Sarah M. Coyne, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Randal D. Day, James Harper, and Laura Stockdale for the School of Family Life at Brigham Young.
“Social networks give an intimate look at your teenager’s life,” Sarah Coyne, lead author of the study, said in a Brigham Young news release. “It lets parents know what their kids are going through, what their friends think is cool or fun, and helps them feel more connected to their child. It gives a nice little window into what is going on.”
Social media connections also provide parents with extra opportunities to show their support for their kids, Coyne said.
What’s the takeaway here?
Is it that social networking between parents and kids is a key to better parent–child relationships?
Is it that parents should head straight for their computers and send their teens a friend request?
The first message is: Social media strengthens bonds that are already there. Strong parent-child relationships spill over into social media.
The other message: Literacy 2.0 has become a vital and valuable parenting skillset.
As Coyne says in the BYU press release, “If you really want to stay involved with your kid, you can’t be afraid to learn new technology, to learn new web sites and to know where your teen is.”
And does that mean parents should slather their kids’ social media accounts with gobs of praise and daily trivia?
Being a social media savvy parent means knowing what amount of engagement online is cool and what level of interaction will send their teen into the abyss of public humiliation.
Digital literacy must go hand in hand with parenting literacy.
Call it d-parenting.