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Parenting Styles and Social Networking Behaviour of Adolescents

Adolescence is a major transitional period. It is the starting point of physical, sexual, mental, emotional, social and legal maturity and it is also the fastest physical, intellectual and psychological change-period in the lives of children.

Social media can be a major source of frustration and strained relationship between adolescents and parents. Often adolescents get addicted to networking through social media thereby making them non-social in real life. They seem to develop a sense of superiority to their parents, since most parents are not as well-informed as the new generation with respect to the networking sites. Moreover, the influence from these sites makes them less dependent on parents leading to less interaction with them and with society in general. Overprotected and over disciplined children will seek to use the social networking media as an avenue for exploring new found freedom and satisfying their curiosity. They also resist parental supervision or control in these interactions. Hence social networking does not necessarily bridge the generation gap but rather, makes it wider.

Adolescents who overuse media and technology are more prone to anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders. There are cases of adolescents who have committed suicide due to cyber bullying.

In this context, there is a vital need to study the relationship between parenting and social networking behaviour of adolescents in India. Parental styles play a significant role in the psychological development of adolescents. Hence a study was undertaken on parenting styles and use of social media by adolescents.

For this study, three major dimensions of perceived parenting styles as hypothesised by Roe namely, acceptance, concentration and avoidance have been used. Social integration and emotional connection, and integration into social routines are the measuring scales used to measure social networking behaviour of adolescents.

According to Roe, parental attitudes such as acceptance, concentration and avoidance can be defined as follows:

Acceptance means that the parents give the child the status of a mature member of the family who needs a certain level of independence and who has the ability to shoulder responsibilities. Such parents neither put undue attention on their children nor overlook them completely. Rather they encourage children to fulfil their potential as best as they can.

Concentration refers to the attitude of parents who give an uneven amount of their time and energy to the overseeing and regulation of their children. They over-protect them through unnecessary boundaries and put margins upon their creativity to explore the settings. They force children to perform beyond their abilities and to achieve big goals.

Avoidance depicts the outlook of parents who either disregard or discard the child. They disengage when their children ask for affection and love. They spend negligible time with their children. Instead of satisfying the child’s physical needs, they openly mistreat them. In essence, they express no positive interest in their children and their activities.

Sixty adolescents- male and female, between the ages 13-16yrs, from five different schools in Bangalore (ICSE, CBSE, IGSCE and State Syllabus) participated in the survey. The main objective of the study was to find out whether there is any significant relationship between parenting styles and use of social media by adolescents and also whether parental acceptance, concentration and avoidance have  any relationship on  their social networking behaviour.

The overall parenting styles were calculated by the Family Relationship Inventory Scale. It was found to have a positive correlation. This clarifies that there is a significant relationship between parenting styles and use of social media by adolescents.

It was found that parental attitudes significantly accompany the developmental process of adolescents. Parental attitude marked by acceptance, concentration and avoidant parenting was seen to be associated with social media use of adolescents. The study proves that with greater parental acceptance, there is a decrease in the use of social media by adolescents, but greater the parental concentration and avoidance, the greater the use of social media.

Eugster writes that the results of parental acceptance are that the child will develop a strong self-esteem and positive self-image, the child will consider the parent as a reliable supporter and mentor, the child will be secure enough to talk to the parent about his/her issues, and the child’s negative feelings will decrease when he/she finds that the parent understands it.

According to Kevin Leman an overprotecting parenting style destroys the freedom and vitality of adolescents. It can also make them dependent on their peers. Besides, it also puts a lid on their self-confidence in facing challenges. Parents need to know how to work out the balance between holding them and freeing them.

Tim Elmore states that when parents find it hard to understand adolescents and fail to bring proper leadership, it works negatively on their children’s self-identity. They may think that either the parents are not interested in them or they are clueless of the modern world they live in.

References: S.Kumar: Emotional Maturity of Adolescent Students in Relation to Their Family Relationship, Facts for families: Children and Social Networking. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, O’Keeffe & Pearson: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families, Tim Elmore: 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, Kevin Leman: Adolescence isn’t terminal. Eugster: Parental Acceptance, Helping Your Child Develop a Positive Sense of Self.

(This article is taken from the dissertation titled “Parenting Styles and Social Networking Behaviour of Adolescents” done by Ancy Joe Abraham, in 2015 January)