Researchers at Facebook took a look at friending patterns within families and discovered that teens — especially young teens — are more likely to friend their parents than the other way around.
Facebook found that over 65% of friendships between 13-year-olds and their parents are initiated by the child. But as the child gets older, the curve starts to shift. Only about 40% of parent/child friendships are initiated by the child when the child is in their early to mid-twenties. And I’m using the term “child” here to mean offspring. For some reason the percentage of child-initiated friend requests start to ramp up, reaching 50%, by the mid-40’s.
Why do children friend parents?
Facebook didn’t ask or speculate why younger children are more likely to friend their parents, but I have a theory. Internet safety experts, including my colleagues and myself at ConnectSafely.org, recommend that parents ask their young teens to friend them and some parents require that as a condition for allowing their child to use Facebook. And, while Facebook requires that the user be at least 13, it is no secret that millions of children lie about their age to get on during their pre-teens and research has shown that in many cases the parent helps their pre-teen sign-up for the service. It could be that those parents are especially likely to be sure that they’ve been added as friends. For the record, I would like to see Facebook admit children under 13, with additional safeguards.
Nature of family conversations
Facebook also examined who posts on who’s timeline and what they say to each other. It turns out that daughters post on their parents timeline at about the same frequency as parents post on theirs but sons are more likely to receive post from parents than initiate posts.
Parents are proud and kids are gracious
As I would have expected, parents often post things that show that they are proud of their kids, but it may come as a surprise to learn that kids generally appreciate those post. Having said that, I urge parents to think carefully and check in with your kids before starting to post on their wall. It’s usually not an issue with adult kids but for teens and pre-teens, too much public parental interaction can be a bit embarrassing. As your children what they prefer and respect their wishes. Also, consider using Facebook’s custom privacy tools to limit those posts to just them or perhaps them plus other family members.
Lots of love
Check out the graphics below to see typical words posted by children (including adult children) on their parents’ timelines.
Disclosure: I’m co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Facebook.