Children prefer Facebook chat to talk to mum about problems

Summary

A study from KU Leuven has revealed that older children prefer bringing up sensitive topics with their mothers via Facebook chat rather than in person

Weighing their words

Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 14 years prefer to talk to their mothers about their problems via Facebook messaging rather than face to face, according to a study by University of Leuven communication scientist Viktorien Van Loon.

For her Master’s thesis, Van Loon interviewed 16 mothers about how they communicate with their children. She found that Facebook helped to take the first step in addressing sensitive issues, like bullying and crushes. Instead of starting a conversation at the kitchen table, many young people bring up the subject via the Facebook chat tool.

Heidi Vandebosch, a professor of communication sciences at Antwerp University told De Standaard that the results didn’t surprise her. “Chat helps children to weigh their words,” she said. “Children also consider chatting safe because the conversation will not be overheard by others, as can happen when talking in the kitchen.”

According to Vandebosch, youngsters will in the long term consider a face-to-face conversation more valuable, after Facebook helps to overcome their reservations.

The Leuven study also showed that mothers use Facebook to gain insight into the lives of their children. Many mums try to monitor the Facebook use of their children because they are worried about bullying. They use Facebook groups as well to get in touch with mothers of their child’s classmates.