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How Parents’ Social Media Use Influences Family Health

Eliza Olpin

Eliza Olpin presented a CURA poster on how parents’ social media use influences family health.

Eliza Olpin presented research on social media usage and family health at the CURA (College Undergraduate Research Award) poster research competition in November 2021. Olpin’s research focused on the effect parents’ social media had on family health.

Olpin decided to research social media because she had been curious about the topic. She said, “You hear a lot about social media in both positive and negative ways. My bias was that there’s more negative talk about social media so I wanted to see if social media had a negative affect on family health.”

Olpin sent a survey to 500 couples from the United States who were married or cohabiting and had children between the ages of three and thirteen. She asked the survey respondents whether they had a social media app downloaded on their phone, how frequently they used it, and what their primary purpose was for using the app. The survey respondents also responded to questions measuring health on the Family Health Scale, which was created by Dr. Ali Crandall.

Data from the survey showed that Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram were the most frequently used social media apps followed by Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and Linkedin. The primary purposes for why parents used the apps were for connecting with family and friends, entertainment, and information. In the survey, the parents could indicate that they used a certain app with more than one primary purpose in mind. Almost all of the parents said that they used at least one social media app for entertainment, but many also used them for connecting to family and friends and for information.

Olpin was surprised to discover that there was no evidence that social media use had a negative effect on family health. Mothers’ use of social media was statistically insignificant. However, fathers who reported using social media to connect with friends and family and for entertainment had higher overall family health scores. Fathers use of social media to connect was also positively associated with family health resources. Olpin hypothesized that the positive correlation could be due to parents growing connections, relieving stress, or developing greater self-efficacy through social media.

Because of her research, Olpin advises parents to use social media wisely, but to not put too much guilt on themselves. She said, “My takeaway was a better appreciation for how complex social media is. It could be a good thing. Heavenly Father really does give us things like technology to use as a tool for strengthening families.”

This winter, Olpin will use the skills she learned doing research at BYU to complete an internship with Mental Health America of the Greater Dallas Area looking at the social determinants of mental health. She hopes to continue to study, improve, and strengthen family health.