Mediating social media use: Connecting parents’ mediation strategies and social media literacy

Special issue: Young Children’s Use of Digital Media and Parental Mediation

Increasingly complex and multipurpose social media platforms require digital competences from parents and adolescents alike. While adolescents grow up with social media, parents have more difficulties with them, leading to uncertainties regarding their adolescents’ social media mediation. This study contributes to parental mediation research by (1) investigating whether mediation strategies defined by previous research are also relevant for social media use, and (2) exploring whether parents’ social media literacy is connected to the choice for a certain mediation strategy, as previous research already identified other impact factors such as children’s age or family composition. Using a qualitative research design, we interviewed 14 parents and 13 adolescents from 10 families in Belgium. Results indicate that, consistent with previous research, parents in this study mostly use active mediation focusing on risks and safety on social media. However, some parents monitor their children through social media accounts specifically set up for monitoring, or specialized mobile apps. Furthermore, parents with high (mostly critical) social media literacy choose active mediation over restrictive or technical strategies, recognizing opportunities of social media and letting adolescents explore on their own.

Parental mediation; media literacy; social media; parents; adolescents

Bechmann, A., & Lomborg, S. (2013). Mapping actor roles in social media: Different perspectives on value creation in theories of user participation. New Media & Society, 15, 765–781.

boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, 210–230.

Clark, L. (2011). Parental mediation theory for the digital age. Communication theory, 21, 323–343.

Gentile, D. A., Nathanson, A. I., Rasmussen, E. E., Reimer, R. A., & Walsh, D. A. (2012). Do you see what I see? Parent and child reports of parental monitoring of media. Family Relations, 61, 470–487.

Helsper, E. J. (2012). A corresponding fields model of digital inclusion. Communication Theory, 22, 403–426.

Imec (2017). Digimeter 2016. Retrieved from

Kroger, J. (2007). Identity development: Adolescence through adulthood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Livingstone, S., Ólafsson, K., Helsper, E., Lupiáñez‐Villanueva, F., Veltri, G., & Folkvord, F. (2017). Maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks for children online: The role of digital skills in emerging strategies of parental mediation. Journal of Communication, 2017, 1–24.

Livingstone, S., & Third, A. (2017). Children and young people’s rights in the digital age: An emerging agenda. New Media & Society, 19, 657–670.

Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., Görzig, A., & Ólafsson, K. (2011). Risk and safety on the internet. The perspective of European children. Full findings from the EU Kids Online survey of 9-16 year olds and their parents. London, UK: EU Kids Online. Retrieved from

Livingstone, S., van Couvering, E., & Thumin, N. (2008). Converging traditions of research on media and information literacies: Disciplinary, critical, and methodological issues. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 103–132). New York, USA: Routledge.

Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. (2008). Parental mediation of children's internet use. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52, 581–599.

Livingstone, S. (2004). What is media literacy? Intermedia, 32(3), 18-20. Retrieved from

Maccoby, E. E. (2007). Historical overview of socialization research and theory. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: Theory and research (pp. 13–41). New York City, USA: The Guilford Press.

Mortelmans, D. (2011). Handboek kwalitatieve onderzoeksmethoden [Handbook of qualitative research methods]. Leuven: Acco.

Nikken, P., & Jansz, J. (2014). Developing scales to measure parental mediation of young children's internet use. Learning, Media and Technology, 39, 250–266.

Nikken, P., & Jansz, J. (2006). Parental mediation of children’s videogame playing: A comparison of the reports by parents and children. Learning, Media and Technology, 31, 181–202.

Spencer, L., Ritchie, J., Ormston, R., O'Connor, W., & Barnard, M. (2014). Analysis: Principles and processes. In J. Ritchie, J. Lewis, C. McNaughton Nichols, & R. Ormston (Eds.), Qualitative research practice, 2nd ed. (pp. 269–293). London, UK: Sage.

Symons, K., Ponnet, K., Emery, K., Walrave, M., & Heirman, W. (2017). A factorial validation of parental mediation strategies with regard to internet use. Psychologica Belgica, 57, 93–111.

Third, A. (2016). Researching the benefits and opportunities for children online. London: Global Kids Online. Retrieved from:

Vanwynsberghe, H., Boudry, E., & Verdegem, P. (2015). De impact van ouderschapsstijlen op de ontwikkeling van sociale mediageletterdheid bij adolescenten [The impact of parenting styles on the development of social media literacy among adolescents]. Tijdschrift voor Communicatiewetenschap, 1(43), 84–100.

Vanwynsberghe, H. (2014). How users balance opportunity and risk: A conceptual exploration of social media literacy and measurement [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University.

Warren, R. (2001). In words and deeds: Parental involvement and mediation of children's television viewing. The Journal of Family Communication, 1, 211–231.

Wartella, E., Rideout, V., Lauricella, A., & Connell, S. (2013). Parenting in the age of digital technology. Report for the Center on Media and Human Development. Illinois, USA: Northwestern University. Retrieved from

Zaman, B., Nouwen, M., Vanattenhoven, J., de Ferrerre, E., & Van Looy, J. (2016). A Qualitative inquiry into the contextualized parental mediation practices of young children’s digital media use at home. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 60, 1–22.





PDF views