Parents on Social Media: Mothers Are More Engaged (Study)

How do parents use social media, and how do usage patterns differ between mothers and fathers? A new study from Pew Research Center sought to provide some clarity.

How do parents use social media, and how do usage patterns differ between mothers and fathers? A new study from Pew Research Center sought to provide some clarity.

The study, conducted by Pew and the University of Michigan’s School of Information, found that 75 percent of all parents use social media, but mothers are more heavily engaged. Meanwhile, both mothers and fathers use social media as a resource for parenting information.

Friendship patterns also differ between parents and non-parents, as the study found that parents are more likely to be friends with their own parents and with neighbors, while non-parents are more likely to be friends with their real-life friends.

Highlights from the study’s findings include:

  • 79 percent of social media-using parents say they get useful information via their networks, with 32 percent strongly agreeing (35 percent of mothers, 27 percent of fathers).
  • 59 percent of social media-using parents have discovered useful information specifically about parenting via social media, with mothers (66 percent) more likely to do so than dads (48 percent).
  • 81 percent of parents who use social media, or 60 percent of all parents, try to respond to good news that is shared in their networks, with 45 percent of social media-using parents saying that they “strongly agree” that they do so—53 percent of mothers, and 33 percent of fathers.
  • 58 percent of parents who use social media try to respond when friends or acquaintances share bad news, with 31 percent of mothers strongly agreeing that they do so, compared with 21 percent of fathers.
  • 74 percent of social media-using parents said they get support from their friends on social media (35 percent strongly agree—45 percent of moms and 22 percent of dads).
  • 42 percent of parents who use social media have received social and emotional support about parenting issues from their online networks—50 percent of mothers, compared with 28 percent of fathers.
  • 31 percent of social media-using parents have posted parenting questions on their online networks, with moms and dads equally likely to do so.
  • 71 percent of all parents try to respond to questions posted by people in their online networks if they know the answers, with 32 percent of social media-using parents saying they strongly agree (35 percent of mothers, 28 percent of fathers).
  • The typical parent of Facebook has 150 friends, while typical non-parents have 200, but parents’ networks contain about one-third “actual friends,” while non-parents contain less than one-quarter.

Pew Research Center research associate and report author Maeve Duggan said in a release introducing the new study:

The value parents find in social media echoes what we’ve found in a broader population–it’s an effective way to share information and connect with others. Many parents may have already been social media users before having children, and they’ve adapted these advantages to their new scenarios.

Another report author, University of Michigan associate professor Cliff Lampe, added:

Social network sites like Facebook make it easier to access a broad network of people for both informational and emotional support, and parenting is often a context where we need both. While fathers are often as likely as mothers to use social media to get information about parenting, they lag behind mothers in terms of the support they feel they get from social media use.

Readers: What did you think of the findings in the report?

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