Does socialising online with your kids improve your relationship with them? Does hanging out on social networking sites with mum or dad strengthen the connections you have with each other in real life?
A recent report by Brigham Young University found that those parents that socialised with their kids online, were in fact better connected in the real world. The report also found that those kids who facebooked, tweeted and Instagrammed mum or dad showed more prosocial behaviours. They were more generous, kind and helpful than their ‘parent avoiding’ acquaintances.
Should you be hanging with your kids homies?
Is it cool for kids to be seen hanging online with their parents though? I once wrote about the things I don’t think parents need to do online with their kids. Commenting on everything they say and every update they make, can come across a little needy and uncomfortable. So be sure to find some of your own clan. The odd comment or the odd liking of a pic, may all help to build a sense of connection. I think you need to be guided by the kids a little. I am sure there are different tolerance levels for different ages. If they are enjoying the interactions and reciprocating the communication then sure, go for it. If you find however that they are not responding back to anything you say, you might want to take the hint.
The report did also find that those who took part regularly on social networking sites but without ever having any parental supervision, were linked to more negative outcomes such as decreased connection, were more inwardly focused and displayed increased aggression.
Getting a little sneaky peak
There is no doubt there are positive elements to following your kids online. You get to have greater insight into what they’re doing. You get a feel for what they may be going through. You also get to see when they do good things online and congratulate them for it. I have seen some decent photos my kids may have taken and so encourage more of that, rather than some of the other mindless
dribble snippets of information that they share. Parents often assume that kids do a lot of negative things online, but ‘hanging out’ in some of the places they do, will allow you to see another side that you may not be privy to in everyday grunts interactions.
They will still have a secret cubby
Whilst many parents are friends with their parents and aunties on Facebook or allow them to follow them on Instagram, we know too that often kids move away from the ‘local family hangouts’ and move further afield to gain that bit of privacy. And that’s ok too, as long as you have been teaching them all along the skills they need to safely and responsibly interact on whatever site they choose to play on. Kids still want to have places where they are talking to their mates without mum or dad listening in. Again that is fine, as long as they are keeping in mind that there is always a chance they will be overheard.
The chicken or the egg?
In reading about these findings however, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is the old ‘rich get richer scenario’. Those who already have a strong bond in real life that has been built on through childhood are far more likely to continue this connection throughout adolescents, regardless of where they are hanging out. Did the good relationship come about as a result of the socialising they do online, or is it that the good relationship they have already, means they can happily interact online?
I think therefore if you are hanging out in similiar places online, it is important we role model good online interactions. Dont let them see you lash out at people in the heat of the moment. Dont let them see you be cruel or nasty about others. Let them see you take regular breaks and maintain real life connections and pursuits. Let them see that online relationships are fine but it is the real life face to face stuff that offers the greatest sense of connection.
At the end of the day I do believe it to be largely the chicken or the egg scenario. The kids and parents that are already well connected in real life are going to be naturally better connected online…..so keep those connections strong from a young age, encouraged by open communication and lots of face to face talk.
If your kids are online, do you interact much? What do they think about it?