Social media: A growing source of family conflict
Social media has become such a part of everyday life that two-thirds of American adults are using it. As people share more online, however, their posts can reveal unexpected details about their lives – and a recent study suggests their children may not always be happy about it.
Researchers at the University of Washington surveyed 249 parent-child pairs across the United States to find out how they manage technology use in the home. The children ranged in age from 10 to 17. The researchers asked a variety of questions about established rules on technology, including things like time limits and curfews and prohibiting content and apps.
They found that 94 percent of families have some kind of rules or expectations set for technology use. Among the most common were limits on what kinds of devices or content children were allowed to access, as well as context restrictions, like no devices allowed during dinner, for instance.
“Given how much time kids spend in front of screens, it’s encouraging to hear that almost all families are actively trying to instill lessons about healthy boundaries in their children,” says Dr. Keith Williams, a pediatrician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “With childhood obesity on the rise, and reports of cyberbullying and sexual harassment reaching even the youngest of children, it’s important that we help kids use technology in ways that promote health and well-being, rather than harm it.”
Perhaps more interestingly, children had a lot to say about their parents’ technology use as well. While parents admitted they had trouble following their own rules about technology, their children were quick to agree.
Children also expressed concern about parents using their phones while driving and were twice as likely to say adults shouldn’t “overshare” about them online. Respondents said they found their parents’ content embarrassing and were frustrated by the loss of control over their own online life and image.
“Today’s children have grown up under the spotlight of social media, with parents sharing details of their lives, literally, from the moment they are born,” says Dr. Williams. “As they age, however, it is clear that adults need to consider their children’s feelings on the matter. While parents have always shared family anecdotes with friends and loved ones, social media exponentially expands our social circles and, if we are not careful, can create permanent public records of private matters.”