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Heart & Home

Are Teens Who Interact with Parents on Social Media Better People?

For some teens, the thought of being followed on Twitter by their dad, or having their Facebook status update liked by their mom would be enough to send them into seclusion. The embarrassment! The horror! But it's not like that for all teenagers. In fact, some of them like interacting with their parents via social media, and those that do, have better relationships with them and get into less trouble.

According to a new study released in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networks, those teens who are all "Retweet me dad!" and "Follow back mom!" are just better overall. A team of researchers from Brigham Young University asked 491 teenagers and their respective parents about their social media use. About 50 percent of the teens said they do use social media to talk with their parents, and 20 percent reported communicating this way each day.

After logging this data, the team — led by Sarah Coyne, a psychologist — then asked the teens questions to better gauge their outlooks on things like helping others. Other areas studied were delinquency, depression, eating disorders, aggression and positive interactions with friends and family members. The results showed that those teens who were most connected with their parents via some sort of social media felt were less likely to be depressed, delinquent, and aggressive. The teens were also more likely to be nice to others.

"Feelings of connection then mediated the relationship between social networking with parents and behavioral outcomes, including higher prosocial behavior and lower relational aggression and internalizing behavior," explained Coyne in her report. "Conversely, adolescent social networking use without parents was associated with negative outcomes, such as increased relational aggression, internalizing behaviors, delinquency, and decreased feelings of connection. These results indicate that although high levels of social networking use may be problematic for some individuals, social networking with parents may potentially strengthen parent–child relationships and then lead to positive outcomes for adolescents."

Coyne explains that the findings indicate that parents should get involved with their teens as "a show of love and support and getting a better sense of what's happening in their teen's world." And sure, that's a good idea. It can't completely hurt. However, what does this study really show, other than teens who have good parents don't mind interacting with them? We imagine that if another study featuring the same 491 teens and their parents were conducted, and it measured how they communicated in life, the same teens would communicate with their parents, and the same group would be less depressed and better behaved.

In short: If parents are good with their kids, their kids like them. It's not exactly groundbreaking, though some teens might think so.

[Pic via Flickr - Kevin Velistra]

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