Schoenebeck to work with parents and children on managing social media use

Sarita Schoenebeck

As digital devices and internet connected services make their way into increasingly younger hands, parents have new anxieties to deal with. What are children doing with social media? How can parents cultivate constructive behaviors and healthy habits with new technologies?

The National Science Foundation has awarded UMSI assistant professor Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck a three year, $469,519 grant to conduct a wide-ranging study to assess parenting methods for increasing awareness, intentionality, and competency in youths’ social media usage. Schoenebeck notes that shifts in the technological landscape have generated a complex, sometimes fraught, series of parental perceptions relating to technology’s role in their children’s lives: parents hold simultaneously positive and negative views and have difficulty reconciling them.

The study will seek methods for reducing the challenges Schoenebeck identifies through a multi-step approach:

  1. A series of preliminary studies to identify how parents and children perceive social media use and where perceptions are mismatched
  2. A trial of mobile phone tools to encourage children to reflect on the content and context of their mobile social network use, along with text alerts to parents encouraging them to establish dialog with their children about social media
  3. A similar trial which leverages web browser usage among children with laptops and provides them with regular alerts

These studies will be used to generate themes and theories about how children use social media and how parents can be provided with tools to decrease their own anxiety about social media use while increasing the self-awareness and reflective capacity of children who engage with social media. The mobile phone and web-based tools will be made available to the public for adaptation, use, and review. 

POSTED ON Thursday, AUGUST 22, 2013