Do You ‘Friend’ Your Teen On Social Media?

September 10, 2015  |  

New social media platforms are popping up almost daily. Whether someone just shot a picture of their favorite meal on Instagram or uploaded their kids at dance rehearsal on YouTube, social media is making it easier and easier to connect and share with people all over the globe.

But as a parent should you ‘friend’ your teen on social media?

According to a study at Brigham Young University the answer is yes. Professors Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla found that teens who connect with their parents on social media platforms, feel closer in real life. In addition to it helping the parent-child relationship, they also found that it helps influence generous and kind behavior in the teens. Overall the study suggest that parents need to be media savvy and be ahead of the curve in order to know where their children are, the type of crowd they hang with, and what they are into.

Here is a Q&A about their findings…

How does social media help families feel more connected?
You can do a lot on social networking sites. Your kid might post a picture, and you might show support by liking it or making a nice comment, or a status update that does the same kind of thing. It gives more opportunities to give positive feedback or show affection. Social networks give an intimate look at your teenager’s life. 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.

What’s the typical level of family engagement on social media?
Our study asked how often they interacted on social media. Half of the teens in our study reported being on social network sites with their parents and 16 percent interacted with parents every day through social media.

Were more frequent interactions linked to more family closeness?
Yes, the more frequently parents used social media to interact with teens, the stronger the connection.

Parents could take this too far presumably. Did you see any of that in your study?
It is the kind of thing that you can take too far. Parents need to be smart about how they use it. I think it is a really great tool to connect with your kids. But just like everything else, it’s got to be used in moderation. You don’t want to be the parent who posts embarrassing pictures of your kid all the time or makes snarky comments. You have to keep it at the level that’s appropriate and respectful of what the teen wants as well.

So what you see here is just one manifestation of an overall healthy parenting style?
Exactly. You don’t want these results to get overblown to say, “If you friend your kid on Facebook, you’re suddenly going to have a great relationship.” It’s just one tool in an arsenal that parents have to connect with their teens. This is what teens are doing – they are on social media already, so it’s a nice tool to use.

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