Parents, teens who interact on social media are closer in real life

By Cait Orton | Posted - Jul 19th, 2013 @ 11:44am

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents who comment, like and retweet their teen's posts aren't always invasive or embarrassing. A recent study shows parents who interact with their teens on social media are more connected in real life.

A group of Brigham Young University researchers surveyed 500 people in Seattle, Wa., including teens and their parents. They asked a variety of questions on behavior and relationships, but threw in a question about social media activity.

Every teen surveyed said they used social media, but only 50 percent said they interact with their parents. Of that group, 16 percent said they interact with parents every day.

Sarah Coyne, the study’s author, said the findings show social media activity builds on parent-teen relationships, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing it into parenting.

“It’s like in real life,” she said. “You need to have clear boundaries. You should be showing your affection … without being overly intrusive.”

Coyne said as teens continue to use social media regularly, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or one of the dozens of other sites out there, parents should consider jumping on the bandwagon to keep tabs on their kids.

“Especially for younger teens, I would almost say it’s a requirement,” Coyne said. “They’re still young and trying to figure it out. It’s important for parents to have a presence.”

However, Coyne emphasized not every teen is the same, and not every parent will want to take the same approach. She recommended parents sit down with their teen and set boundaries face to face.

“My advice is to know your kid, because some teens are going to want very minimal response and some teens will love it and soak it up,” she said.

Especially for younger teens, I would almost say it's a requirement ... It's important for parents to have a presence.

–Sarah Coyne

Coyne, who has a 9-year-old child, said she plans to be on social media with her kid.

Other parents are seeing the benefits as well. Eagle Mountain resident Mike Lyman has four kids, two of which are teenagers. He actively uses Facebook alongside his teenagers Makenna, 16, and Kaden, 14, often as a quiet observer.

“I observe a lot and keep tabs on them that way to see what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s a good way to stay involved and keep that open mind with your kids.”

He said he’s sat down with his teenagers and set ground rules, like no cursing or inappropriate comments, and he asked them to set their profiles to private. When McKenna or Kaden post something he thinks is inappropriate, he said he talks to them about it.

Lyman said using social media to interact with his kids has built on the relationships he has with them.

“I’m not one that’s on and interacting all the time,” he said. “(Kaden) will post pictures and I can make comments there and encourage him that way. I think it’s important to show interest.”

Photo Credit: Mark A. Philbrick, BYU

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