Social Media – Good or Bad for Families?

So many people take part in some sort of social media these days – Facebook, Twitter, a family blog, Four Square. There are so many out there, it’s impossible to list all of them. The question is – is this phenomenon good for families by helping them stay in touch and communicating or is it bad for families because they rely on impersonal means to communicate or because they air too much “dirty laundry” other members may not appreciate?
Family First asks the question and here are some of the many responses we received back:
 “Because of social media I think my family is so much closer. I’m always working but my parents and sister are able to see what I’m up to at all times through Twitter, Facebook, my blog etc. It also goes the other way too where I’m able to connect with them and see what they are doing. In addition, my parents during the winter spend their time in the Caribbean so social media is also a great way for all of us to know what’s going on with each other, without actually being face to face.” – Derek Johnson, CEO of
 “Before Facebook, I had lost touch with my boys – my birth son as well as my former step-sons.  I was resigned to not being in touch with them, being cut out of their lives by neglect, not conflict. Facebook reconnected us.  In particular, the significant others of the boys are Facebook mavens.  They post pictures of the grandchildren and chat with each other…and most importantly, with me. 
We live far apart and when we did see each other, it was awkward. Our lives are so different. What do we talk about?  Now, we are involved in each other’s lives.  When I was in Florida recently, I stopped in to see one of the boys and all of a sudden it was an impromptu family reunion.  I had planned a short hour of visiting and we laughed and talked and told stories for hours. It was the best time.” – J. Kim Wright
“Three years ago, my husband and I moved 1,400 miles away from our hometown with our two children.  We left behind both of our parents, grandparents, and siblings. Social media – including blogging, twitter, and Facebook, has kept us in touch with our families in a way that weekly phone calls cannot.  My parents don’t just get the highlights, but are able to keep up with the everyday minutiae of our lives.  They know that I tried to make guacamole and failed the first three times.  They know that my daughter left her stuffed animal home on her first day of kindergarten.  And, they know about the things we never talked about.
They know when my husband and I are fighting or I’m feeling insecure as a parent.  They know about my secret dreams of becoming a writer and traveling more.  My parents and grandparents know me better now than they did when I lived 15 minutes away, thanks to social media.”  -Britt Reints
“I have three younger sisters. I currently live in San Diego. Two of my sisters are in Texas and the rest of my family is in Japan. My father is in the military. Social media is a BIG reason why we can all stay so close, especially Facebook. Plus, I also work in the field so I’m very social media savvy, which helps when Mom can’t figure out how to upload pictures to Facebook or tag a person.
There have been a few downsides like finding important information on Facebook instead of getting a phone call first. For example: I found out my uncle had throat cancer on Facebook and had to call everyone to find out what was going on.  Also, my youngest sister posted her phone number on her wall for everyone to see. She’s only 15 but I still gave her hell. It’s hard not being a part of my sisters lives and Facebook gives me a piece of that back. “ – Stefanie Frederick
“Social media has been a blessing for me and my family. In 2008, I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, leaving my family in Boston. But because of Facebook, I have been able to keep in touch with them all, including my brother who recently moved to Florida. Without Facebook, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch my niece grow up, and to ‘chat’ with her. So, while Facebook actually started out as a necessary evil for me as a writer, it has ended up paying off in ways I never imagined. (Twitter has helped as well.)” – K. S. “Kat” Brooks
“Social media has played an integral part in keeping our family in touch. We have a large extended family that we stay in touch with, primarily on Facebook. My dad’s side of the family has a large annual reunion, and through Facebook, we have been able to keep track of everyone, make and change plans, and share photos taken afterwards. It’s such a great way to keep in touch passively!” – Wendi Riggens-Miller
“I think that Social Media can be a great way to stay in touch with family in ways you could not before. For instance, with my parents, they are far more aware of what goes on in my life than before they joined Facebook. That is not because of bad communication or anything but sometimes we just have busy lives.
I also think it is a great way for parents to keep tabs on the kids and see who they are talking to online. I see many parents that are able to use Social Media well with their kids and comment on what is going on. I think as long as you purposely use it to enhance communication, it can be successful. 
You can’t let that be an excuse for not eating together or talking with your kids. Social Media can be an additional tool but should not be a replacement.”  – J.R. Griggs
“I am from London but relocated to Costa Rica with my husband and two small children. My sisters are my best friends and I hate that we don’t see each other at least twice a week to chat about everything and my son is missing his cousin like crazy but Facebook and Skype ensure that they never feel far away. We get to know what they are feeling, see what they are up to and I have been able to see both of my sisters’ pregnancies as they have been growing.” – Dahlia Nahome
“Most of my family is on Facebook. While a nucleus of four families live in Maryland, the rest of us are scattered in other parts of the country. With Facebook, I have been able to celebrate birthdays, watch a video of my niece in a musical comedy, congratulate a cousin on getting into the college of her choice, see pics of my son’s new house, and even help a teenage cousin with his French homework. The big advantage is that it is in real time and we are part of the fabric of each other’s lives…we talk with both family and their friends, sometimes while events are occurring .
Facebook helps in other ways. A friend has a 20-something daughter I have known since before she was born. Recently, the daughter interviewed a comedianne. The day before she posted an update on Facebook and asked for help in deciding what questions to ask the star. I, along with several others, made suggestions. She used our ideas and had a great interview.
Notice I am talking about REAL exchanges, not Farmville or any other cyber-reality substitutes. I love Facebook for this reason. I hope everyone stays on it for a loooong time.
I recommend in my seminars that professionals treat Facebook differently, with privacy settings as high as possible. As long as you do that and as long as you understand that you still have to remain respectful and not say or show anything regrettable, it can be a powerful tool for make you feel connected to people most important to you.”  – Marcia Finberg
“I have a VERY LARGE family of 13 adult children + spouses and 25 Grandchildren. And I my wife has a LARGE family with 7 Adult Children + Spouses and 9 Grandchildren. Between us we have 35 second generation kids who have difficulty understanding all the connections. Some are spread across the country and rarely find themselves in the family circle.
I have noticed that Social Media tends to bring me closer to the people who are spread further from the family center and have found it difficult to connect with those that they do not know very well. That is especially difficult in such a large family that has a very intimidating social interaction. I have been able to maintain and strengthen those long-distance relationships and we have enjoyed our electronic communication on a regular basis.
On the other hand – I have also noticed that social media tends to intimidate and estrange those family members who are closer to the family center who see each other on a more regular basis. I believe that people do not really understand how social media works and tend to fear that “public chat” between family members can quickly become bones of contention. There is a real fear – but one that can be managed through responsible friendly conversation. Still, the conversation does come up regularly in face to face meetings and “social media” is usually is looked at as negative. But most realize that it is a mass media to be reckoned with.”  – Thomas Knapp
“We are very passionate in this topic and created a website designed to enrich the family communication online: Yoocasa.
We want families to be able to spend quality time online thanks to the best technologies on the Internet. So we made a very simple social network which includes a web meeting features to be able to do things together even when living far from each other. For example, it’s possible to color a drawing together and see each other’s pen while coloring, as if you were playing together on the same computer. Here is a coverage we got on BBC World about our website” -Axel Cateland, CEO, Yoocasa
For more information about Yoocasa, check out this recent Family First article.   
“ I love Facebook for keeping track of my college student daughter and my nieces and nephews, who range in age from 25 to 38. They are now all in California or Arizona, at least during the academic year, and it’s a great way to get a glimpse of what the nieces and nephews are doing because we never corresponded with them, and of course their mothers don’t report—or know—everything. My daughter said she’d do a blog when she went to college last year, but that became more work than Facebook, and she seems to post something most days. Given that she seldom phones or e-mails, it’s reassuring to see she’s still alive and about!” – Linda Carlson
“ My brother and I did not like how we were able to interact on most social media sites (especially the privacy issues) and we actually created our own web site ( to give us what we wanted.” – Chris Fawcett
To learn more about how you can use Kidjot for your own family, check out our recent article about it.
“From a therapist’s perspective, (also a mom of 3 tweens/teens), social media provides a tremendous capacity for us to connect, relate and keep in touch. As a proponent of social media for business and for fun, I think we also need to be aware that it can be divisive.
Such is the case where a mom is in one room, using social media to talk to a teen who might be upstairs, on another computer. This seems silly and contrived, and yet it happens every day in America. As human beings, we will always need direct, face-to-face relationships with our fellow humans.
Therefore, social media can be a mixed bag. When used appropriately, it has the power to enhance our lives and relationships. When used to excess, or to the exclusion of human interaction, it can become a very negative force.” – Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, Child and Family Therapist, Founder, Kidlutions(tm):Solutions for Kids and The Kidlutions Preferred Product Awards Kidlutions Preferred Product Award Kids’ Choice Award (Coming Soon!)
“Dialing up their teenaged daughter’s Facebook page can be the new spy tool for moms who wonder what their teen is thinking, or even what she really likes; what she’s distressed about–and won’t tell mom–and what else is going on in her world. But, of course, this can be a very real source of conflict between daughter and mom. Often “friending” mom isn’t high on the list of a teenage girl’s desires.
Social media can be a great tool for promoting good relationships between parents and kids, but it shouldn’t be the only avenue. Don’t forget to foster good relationships through picking up the phone and giving a call, and even writing those personal notes that were the mainstay of mom’s social media when she was growing up. They are still very important.” – Sandra Lamb,, is a lifestyle and etiquette expert, and the author of How to Write It, Personal Notes, and Write the Right Words.
So, used properly, social media can be a very effective communication tool for families and help them reconnect or stay connected. Used inappropriately, it can cause more harm than good. From these perspectives above, use caution and keep in touch!

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