No, Social Media Isn’t Always the Answer

A couple of researchers at Brigham Young University, Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker, conducted a study of families and social media habits this month, and concluded that families who are connected on social media may find that kids feel closer to their parents in real life, and that connected teens could develop more polished social behavior.

teen-cell-phoneThe full study is available for $51 over here, but the Salt lake Tribune published a summary and interview with one of the lead researchers.   According to Coyne:

“Social networks give an intimate look at your teenager’s life. It [sic] lets parents know what their kids are going through, what their friends think is cool or fun, and helps them feel more connected to their child.”

As a result of the study, people were coming out of the woodwork this week to draw conclusions about the study, and the most common one that I saw was some variation of “Teens Who Friend Their Parents Online Feel Closer to Them in Real Life”. While that last sentence may be true, there is no evidence that teens feel closer to their parents because they are friends with them online. Teens who love and respect their parents are more likely to connect with them online. Teens who detest or distrust their parents avoid them online and everywhere else. Nor is there any evidence that if parents are struggling to connect with their teens, the answer to creating eternal harmony is to connect online.

Coyne admits in part to the lack of proof of a causal relationship:

“Parents who are more connected to their teens in general want to keep that connection elsewhere. It’s kind of a rich get richer type of thing and cementing what’s already there.”

That is a reasonable conclusion. Moving very far beyond that is not. Props to Callie Beusman at Jezebel for calling it the “Wrongest Study Ever”.  It isn’t, but the stretch conclusion that social media can fix a bad relationship, or make a Mother Theresa out of a 16 year old scoundrel is pure fiction.


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