Your kids are experimenting with it. You are obsessed with it. Heck, there are even people who will pay you to do it. I’m talking, of course, about social media. Is it something that undermines your relationship with your kids? Does social media actually enhance the parent/child bond? The answer is not as black and white as some would have you believe.
The too-plugged-in argument.
It’s real easy to say this real-time, always-connected world creates a culture of people with their faces buried in mobile devices, even in the middle of real world interactions. This idea was the basis for the ad launch of the new Windows phone when it came out. This isn’t just an American issue, either. You can see the same message in this video from Thailand called “Disconnect to Connect”
An opportunity to engage.
The other side of the argument is that this is the perfect opportunity to become more connected with your children. If they’re older, it gives you more ways to contact them and to see what’s going on in their lives. If they’re younger, you can spend time learning how to do social media right together. This expert video from PBS talks about the positives for kids using social media and how parents can connect with them through social media.
What parents are saying.
I talked with a number of parents about how it affects their family. Some were social media professionals and some were just parents who enjoy playing in the social media space. As expected, it was a mixed bag of positives and negatives.
One interesting trend was the divide between those with younger kids and those with older ones. Those with younger children were more torn on the issue. For them, it was a blend of social media causing problems and creating opportunities. The ones with older children were almost all positive on it being a way to connect with their kids.
Younger kids need more attention.
The main issue with parents of younger children was the time social media takes away from their kids. One mom said it hindered the relationship because social media can be so addicting. A social media dad said his toddlers enjoy seeing themselves in Facebook videos but overall, he found social media distracting during IRL time.
Michelle Martinez, a blogger and journalist, said, “I’ve had to consciously tune out from checking Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other feeds while I’m with my son. He resents it. I pick up my iPhone and he whines or tries to wrestle it away from me. He views it as a stealing of my time and attention.” However, she goes on to say he really enjoys playing games on the computer that have social interactions with other online players.
Yet, these same parents talk about how using social media makes them feel happier and feel more connected (especially if they stay/work at home). And being a happier person makes them a happier parent.
Keeping up with the older kids.
In almost all cases, the parents of teens and young adults found that social media enhanced their relationship. It gives them a way to keep in touch with on-the-go, hyper-connected kids. It also gives parents a way to keep tabs on their children’s activities. This was especially important for parents of tweens and teens. As one mommy blogger said, “I find out a lot of what is going on in their lives via Facebook. Love it! I make them keep me as a friend even though they sometimes want to block me.”
Those with older children, like me, like the extra connectedness it gives them. I feel social media tools have actually strengthened my relationship with my kids. My son, who’s 24, works evenings and when he’s not, he’s off with friends. We often have brief little shout outs and chats, usually food or sports related, because, you know… we’re men. I also have Facebook live chats with my 20-year-old daughter when she has free time in between her college courses. All this makes us a little bit more connected.
How about you? How is your relationship with your children affected by your social media usage?
Photo credit: George Hall <http://www.flickr.com/photos/geehall/4136419051/>