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2 September 2013

Do Parental Media Restrictions Influence Children’s Social Media Consumption Later in Life?

Keywords: internet, media, parents, survey, North America, computer, mobile, mobile phone, personality, personality characteristics, social media, young adults,

Many parents feel urged to restrict their children’s social media consumption, mostly guided by fears of addictive behavior or undeveloped social skills. A Journal of Children and Media study examines whether parental media restrictions during childhood also influence children’s social media consumption later in life, but doesn’t find any evidence for such an effect. Interestingly, the study does show that children who start to use media at a later age, spend less time on social networking sites (SNS) and text messaging once they enter young adulthood. Self-control plays a crucial role in this process.  

Take aways

  • Parental restrictions on media use (e.g., internet, texting, SNS) during childhood do not influence children’s use of SNS and text messaging later in life. 
  • Interestingly, children who were introduced to social media at a later age, do seem to use SNS and text messaging less often as young adults.
  • Self-control (the ability to resist temptations) plays an important role in young adults’ media use: those who have less self-control are likely to spend more time on SNS and text messaging. 
  • For parents and media educators it’s important to be aware of the influence of young adults’ level of self-control on their media consumption. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Do parents’ time restrictions on media influence their children’s use of SNS and text messaging later in life?

  • Who?

    454 students of a large Midwest university (mean age: 18 years old; 47% were female)

  • Where?


  • How?

    All students filled out an online survey that revealed their social networking site (SNS) use (i.e., average number of visits per day, and average duration of each visit), their use of text messaging in general (i.e., average time spent text messaging), in the classroom, and before sleep. They were also asked whether their parents ever restricted their media consumption (i.e., restricted in the amount of time using internet, instant messaging, texting, or SNS), and at what age they started using these media. Finally, students had to indicate whether they were able to resist temptations in life (i.e., self-control). 

Facts and findings

  • Parental media restrictions do not have any influence on children’s use of SNS and text messaging later in life. 
  • However, young adults who reported to start using social media at a later age (15 years or older) and to be high in self-control (able to resist temptations) used SNS less often than those who reported to be low in self-control, and who adopted media earlier in their life.
  • In addition, young adults who reported to start using social media at a later age (15 years of older) spent less time on text messaging (in the classroom and before sleep) than those who started to use media earlier in life. Their level of self-control didn’t appear to play a role in this case. 
  • Fun fact: Internet use was most often mentioned as being time restricted during childhood (35%), whereas SNS was reported as less time restricted (18%). Text messaging, and instant messaging were restricted equally often (27%). 
  • Critical note: This study showed no link between parental media restrictions during childhood and use of SNS and text messaging later in life, while later media adoption (only for those high in self-control) did. However, it’s not clear whether this later media adoption was the child’s own choice or based on a parental restriction. 
  • Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (later media adoption) and effect (young adults’ media consumption). The results only show that later media adoption is associated with lower use of social media and text messaging later in life.