Parental Control of the Time Preadolescents Spend on Social Media

Parental Control of the Time Preadolescents Spend on Social Media

What was the aim of the research?

Although the minimum age to have a social media account is 13 years old, we know that more than half of 10 to 12 year olds (i.e., preadolescents) use social media. Parents play an important role in the lives of preadolescents and can restrict the amount of time that their child spends online. Spending less time on social media may reduce the number of harmful activities that their child may engage in while on those platforms, such as making appearance-based comparisons with others. We wanted to examine any links between parental restriction of time spent on social media, the amount of time their preadolescent child spends browsing social media, how often preadolescents make appearance comparisons online, and preadolescents’ mental health.

How did we do it?

This research was part of a larger longitudinal project investigating risk and protective factors to adolescent emotional health, known as the Risk to Adolescent Wellbeing (RAW) project. As part of this project 528 preadolescent girls and boys aged 10 to 12 years old and one of their parents complete online surveys each year, which include measures of parents’ control over the time their child spends on social media, child’s social media activities, and child’s mental health. The data used in this research was from surveys completed in the first year of the study.

What did we find?

Around 54% of parents reported that their child used social media and a similar number of preadolescents reported spending time browsing social media each day. Most parents reported having a lot of control over the time their child spent on social media. Preadolescents, whose parents reported greater control over their child’ s time on social media, reported better mental health. Preadolescents spending less time browsing and making fewer appearance comparisons on social media accounted for this relationship.

What does this mean in practice?

Because this study was based on a survey measured at one period in time, we cannot determine if spending less time on social media causes better mental health. However, this study suggests that parental control over time spent on social media may be associated with benefits for mental health among preadolescents. Therefore, parents of children in this age group could be encouraged to limit the time their child spends on social media.

Citation: Fardouly, J., Magson, N.R., Johnco, C.J., Oar, E.L., & Rapee, R.M., (2018) Parental Control of the Time Preadolescents Spend on Social Media: Links with Preadolescents' Social Media Appearance Comparisons and Mental Health. Journal of Youth Adolescence. Jul;47(7):1456-1468. doi: 10.1007/s10964-018-0870-1

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