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Parents and social media: do as I say, not as I do

Two-thirds of parents fear social media is bad for their child, yet they use it extensively themselves.

That is the conclusion of research by Dr Judith Ramsay from Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr Melody Terras and Fozia Yousaf from the University of the West of Scotland being presented today, Thursday 28 April 2016, to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Nottingham.

The researchers asked 107 parents of children aged five and above to complete a questionnaire examining the amount of time they spend using technology, watching television, listening to music and social networking, as well as their preferences and motivations for using technology.

The questionnaire also asked about their child’s technology use and the impact of the use of technology on the parent-child relationship.

The results showed that parents engaged in a wide range of activities – watching television, gaming, mobile phone use and social media – and reported that their children engaged in a similar range. Two-thirds of parents reported using digital media to gain information, while acknowledging that information gained in this way is not always accurate.

A close relationship was found between how much parents watched television, read, played video games, used social networking sites, used their mobile phone and listened to music and how much their time children spent on the same activities.

Yet two-thirds of parents expressed the view that social media was harmful for their child.

Dr Judith Ramsay said: “Our findings suggest parents are worried about their children’s use of technology, which makes it interesting that their own use of it is has so much influence on their children.

“We need to raise parental awareness of the strong effect they have and this influence must also be taken into account by professionals developing policies that promote safe use of the internet for children.”