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19 March 2013

Parents “Friending” Their Children on Facebook

Keywords: parents, survey, North America, experiment, internet, media, social media, young adults,

Quotes of children fearing the moment when their parents join Facebook are very common on the Internet. Some even fear that their life is over as soon as their parents “friend” them. However, less is known about how they feel when their parents actually do “friend” them on Facebook. This study in Journal of Communication asked young adults how they feel about Facebook friending their parents. Surprisingly, the study shows that parents joining Facebook can actually have a positive impact on the parent-child relationship.

Take aways

  • Facebook can help young adults strengthen the relationship with their parents 
  • When children and their parents become friends on Facebook, this can reduce conflicts between them. 
  • Young adults do not perceive their parents friending them as an invasion of privacy. 

Study information

  • The question?

    How does parents “friending” their young adult children on Facebook impact their relationship?

  • Who?

    118 undergraduate students, between the ages of 18 and 29 (mean age: 19.95 years; 80.5% women). Most were white (60.2%) and some students were Asian American (17.8%) and Hispanic American (12.7%). The parents included 54 fathers and 64 mothers, ranging from 36 to 66 years of age (mean age: 51 years)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    The researchers divided parent and child couples into two groups. In one group parents were asked to create and use a Facebook profile for two months and also add their child. In the other group parents were not asked to create a Facebook profile. Before and after the two months the parents and the young adults filled out a survey, containing questions about Facebook use and knowledge, and about the children’s perceptions of the parent-child relationship quality, parent-child conflicts, and parents invading their privacy. 

Facts and findings

  • Parents who added their children on Facebook had fewer conflicts with their children. 
  • For parents and children who had conflicts at the onset of the study, becoming friends on Facebook improved the relationship. 
  • Most young adults didn't perceive parents Facebook friending as an invasion of privacy.
  • Critical note: Before the study, the young adults were informed that their parents might be asked to create a Facebook profile. This could have led students who didn't want their parents to know what they are doing on Facebook to decide not to participate in the study.