My Topics

2 June 2016

What Makes Teens Accept Parents' Social Network Friend Requests?

Keywords: computer, friendships, internet, parents, privacy, teens, Western Europe, media, social media,

Social network sites (SNS) give parents the opportunity to monitor their children’s online activities. However, parents’ presence on SNS could greatly interfere with teens’ desire to use these sites. Teens use SNS to explore their self-image and to communicate with their friends. So, what makes teens accept (or deny) SNS friendship requests by their parents? A study in Computers in Human Behavior shows that this primarily depends on the quality of the parent-child relationship.

Take aways

  • Whether teens accept their parents as a friend on social network sites (SNS) primarily depends on two things: 
    • The quality of the parent-child relationship. The worse the relationship, the less likely teens are to accept their parents’ friend request.
    • How they feel about their parents' presence online. The less comfortable teens are with the idea that parents can see their profile, the less likely they are to accept their parents’ friend request.
  • Privacy issues and the attitudes of peers don’t play a direct role in teens’ decision to accept or deny parents’ SNS friendship requests. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What makes teens accept or deny parental friend requests on Facebook?

  • Who?

    262 children (mean age: 15 years; 53% boys) from secondary schools in Dublin, Ireland; both private and public schools were included meaning that teens came from different socio-economic backgrounds, however, the majority ranked among the middle-class.

  • Where?


  • How?

    Teens were asked to fill out an online or paper questionnaire, including questions about their responses to Facebook friendship requests of their parents, the quality of the relationship with their parents, the way they feel about the idea of having their parents as an Facebook friend, the strength of parent and peer influence, their Facebook privacy management behavior, and their internet and social network site use. 

Facts and findings

  • The quality of parent-child relationship was found to predict the parental friendship status on Facebook.
    • Teens with a bad relationship with their parents were more likely to deny their parent’s friend request.
  • Teens who felt relatively comfortable about the idea of having their parents see their profile were more likely to accept their parents as a friend on Facebook.
  • Teens’ concern about their privacy online did not play a role in the way they respond to parental friend requests. 
  • The influence of peers was also not related to teens’ acceptance of parental friend requests. However, peers did influence the way teens feel about having their parents see their Facebook profile. 
  • Interesting finding: Most teens were rather indifferent towards having their parents as a friend on Facebook.
  • Critical Note: Conclusions should be drawn with caution, because the findings primarily relate to Irish middle class children and, therefore, are not representative for all children in Ireland (and other countries).