Facebook recently released a robust report about how families are using Facebook pages to communicate with one another. The study, drawn from hundreds of thousands of “anonymized” posts where people identified themselves as parents and children, provides a fascinating peek into who in a family initiates the Facebook friendship, who is the most responsive, topics discussed, etc.
Reach Out and Friend Someone
So, who extends the friend request—parent or child? As with so many other social media studies, this one showed differences by age group:
- By and large, adolescents ages 13-17 took the lead in starting Facebook friendships with their parents. More than 65 percent of the friendships between 13 year olds and their moms and/or dads were initiated by the child.
- This percentage begins to drop as the child ages, with only four in 10 of sons and daughters in their mid-twenties sending friend requests to parents.
- Then, the trend swings upwards once more as children reach their thirties and forties, with nearly half of adult children in their mid-forties getting the Facebook ball rolling with their folks.
Hello Mother, Hello Father
Facebook analysts also took a look at which family member was mostly likely to start a virtual dialogue.
Interestingly, daughters and their parents traded nearly even amounts of posts on each other’s timelines until the daughters reached their thirties, at which age their posts to parents outnumber the ones they receive from them. The findings were different for males. The study revealed that sons receive more parental posts than they make in return.
Other than wall posts, families connect on Facebook via shared links, photos and videos, with parents frequently commenting on what their children share, particularly as the younger generation ages and start families of their own.
They also share music, especially videos and lyrics of hits by country artists. Carrie Underwood’s “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” led the pack, followed by songs from Tim McGraw (“My Little Girl”), Brad Paisley (“Letter to Me”), Martina McBride (“In My Daughter’s Eyes”) and Kenny Chesney (“There Goes My Life”).
Terms of Endearment
What do parents and children say to each other on Facebook? The report revealed that families tended to engage in positive and mutually supportive dialogue, with parents frequently expressing pride and children sharing their gratitude.
For example, when posting to daughters, both mothers and fathers often use phrases such as “I’m so proud,” “love you baby,” and adjectives including beautiful, precious and wonderful. “Proud of you” and “well done” were also posted to sons, but interestingly enough, both parents urged their boys to “call me” or “call your mother.” (Apparently, they don’t have to ask their daughters to pick up the phone!)
Also, dads tended to be more colloquial, and even injected mild swear words into their online exchanges with sons, and they discussed topics like money and sports, that did not show up in their conversations with daughters. Meanwhile, in posts to parents, both genders frequently used the word “love” with their mothers, and “thanks” with their fathers.
“We are happy to see that our data surfaces the affection, care, and closeness of family ties,” the Facebook team concluded. . . and I have to agree. This study only strengthens my conviction about how valuable social media can be in building and maintaining relationships.