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Social Media can help Families Bond

Update Date: Jul 17, 2013 01:36 PM EDT

Just a few years ago when Facebook, Twitter and other big social media outlets exploded onto the scene, being 'friends' or being 'followed' by your parents were deemed embarrassing and not cool. Parents are not supposed to be involved with their teenagers' social life, which is often plastered on these social media sites. After time has passed, accepting your parents or other relatives on these types of social media has gotten somewhat more normal than before. According to a new study, being followed and 'retweeted' by one's mother might not be such a bad thing after. This study found that teenagers, who communicated with their parents through Twitter as well as other social media sites, have better familial relationships and fewer behavioral issues.

This study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, questioned 491 teenagers and their parents regarding their social media usage. The parent-child relationship was also measured using behavioral tests. These tests looked into delinquency, depression, aggression, eating disorders and positive behaviors as well.  Of the 491 people polled, 16 percent of them reported that they used social media as a form of communication with their parents daily. Around 50 percent of the teenagers stated that they used social media with their parents in general.

The researchers found that teenagers who were linked to their parents via Facebook, Twitter and other forms, had a stronger connection. The teenagers also reported feeling closer to their parents in real life even though social media involve indirect contact. The researchers also discovered that these teenagers were more likely to be kind and considerate of others and less likely to be depressed, aggressive and delinquent. Despite this finding, the lead author, BYU psychologist, Sarah Coyne, admitted that she did not find a cause and effect relationship.

"The downside of our study is we didn't ask what parents were doing on social media," Coyne explained according to NPR.  "[But it could be] a show of love and support and getting a better sense of what's happening in their teen's world."

The researchers believe that if parents could create a good balance by using social media to both communicate and monitor their children, the parent-child relationship could benefit. However, the researchers stated that parents would need to be upfront about how monitoring their children and avoid invading in the teenagers' social live everyday. This new type of relationship has the potential of helping teenagers since the researchers found that teenagers who used social media heavily without their parents were more likely to have behavioral, relationship and mental problems.

The findings were published in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networks.

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