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The Family That Tweets Together Stays Together

Retweeted by Mom? Teenagers might say they'd die of embarrassment. But teenagers who are connected with their parents via Twitter and other social media have better relationships with them, and fewer behavioral problems.

A study that asked teens if they used social media to communicate with their parents found that half said yes. And 16 percent said they used social media with their parents every day.

Half of the teens in a this study said they used social media to communicate with the folks. Almost 20 percent said they communicated with Mom and Dad that way every day.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, polled 491 teenagers and their parents about social media use, and then used a variety of behavioral tests to measure parent-child connection. The looked at delinquency, depression, eating disorders, aggression in relationships and positive behavior toward others.

That last one asked the teens if they agreed with phrases that would be music to any parent's ear, such as, "I really enjoy doing small favors for my family".

End result: The teenagers who were most connected to their parents on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media felt closer and more connected to their parents in real life.

The teenagers in families who used social media to stay connected also were less likely to be depressed, delinquent, and aggressive. And they were more likely to be kind and thoughtful with others.

Of course, it could just be that kind, thoughtful teenagers have terrific parents and don't mind being close to them, whether that's via Snapchat or a plain old chat.

BYU psychologist Sarah Coyne, the lead author of the study, readily admits that she didn't prove that the reach-out-and-text effort from parents is causing all this goodness.

"The downside of our study is we didn't ask what parents were doing on social media," Coyne tells Shots. But she thinks the value comes in using social media tools as "a show of love and support and getting a better sense of what's happening in their teen's world."

Parents should make it clear early on that they'll be on social media, too, and using it to monitor their children's activities, Coyne says. "It's a great conversation to have, especially with younger teens."

Parents can come on too strong. Just Google "embarrassing Facebook parents" if you don't believe me, or take a peek at these cringe-worthy examples.

But Coyne suspects that more parents are hesitating to post, tweet, or Snapchat with their progeny. "Try it out," she says.

It's their world, after all. And don't you want to know where your kids are hanging out?

The study also found that teenagers who were heavy users of social media, independent of parent connections, were more likely to have problems, including delinquency, aggressive relationships, and depression.

The study was published in the academic journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networks.

It's a sign of the times that a journal with that title exists, isn't it?

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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