Should Parents Be Friends with Their Kids on Social Media?

The answer to this question about being friends with our kids probably depends on the personality and age of your child. Some parents and kids connect well via smart phone and others do not. According to Pew Research:

  • 53% are friends with their parents. This tends to work better when the child is between 12-14. By ages 15-21 it often feels “smothering” to them. Then, later as a young adult, it seems to feel OK again to them.
  • 47% are friends with their children on Facebook. This feels nice to the parent but it’s usually the reason many teens get off Facebook and on to other sites.
  • 41% are connected with people they have never met in person. Teens do this because it feels adventuresome, yet safe. They think, “After all, it’s only a screen.” Later, however, it often leads to LMIRL: Let’s Meet In Real Life, which can be dangerous territory.

Whatever the case, most parents can bank on one thing for sure: your child may befriend you on a social media site like Facebook or Instagram, but they likely have platforms where they use false identities you know nothing about. A parent may assume they know all about their teens, but they’d be shocked if they knew the total amount of personas their children actually use.

For example, consider “Finsta.” This is a fake Instagram persona, where teens can create a totally fraudulent identity and post things you may never know about. They might have five Snapchat accounts. Or, several Twitter accounts. Just know that if you and your child connect on one platform, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one they use. It may be helpful to talk about this with them, or even talk to one of their friends to naturally discover if there are any personas you don’t know about.

I recently spoke to a parent who said that since she became “friends” with her daughter and son on social media sites, they have been guilty of “phubbing” her. Phubbing, as I’ve mentioned before, is the act of snubbing someone because a phone is in your hand. A person can snub someone standing right next to him or her, by merely staring down at the phone and not acknowledging their presence. This mother’s kids felt they didn’t need to talk to her in person as much. After all, they’d already updated her on their lives. Hmmm. Not what she was shooting for.

It’s up to us, adult leaders, to model and equip today’s emerging generation to embrace excellent people skills. While we do see a “new normal” due to phones, there are some timeless relationship skills—like acknowledging others, asking good questions, expressing gratitude, showing respect and courtesy—that must be taught. That is our job.

I may sound like an “old school” leader who’s just not up with the times. I contend, however, our kids need good leadership from us. Their phones can be helpful rather than damaging if we lead them intentionally.

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Should Parents Be Friends with Their Kids on Social Media?