File - Taylor pendergast

Taylor Pendergast
James Madison University Communication Studies 280
This research proposal plans to examine how family member’s increased use of
Facebook, effects family members feeling of closeness. Using a nonrandom sampling group,
researchers will test 380 families in the Harrisonburg, VA County, that are all Facebook users.
Researchers will use a survey that ask questions that will measure both operationalized variables;
time on Facebook and family member closeness. Answering this research question will help
Facebook users understand the possible negative effects that this social media site has on
Social media, more specifically Facebook, is impacting how people communicate with
their family and friends, form new relationships, and access and spread information. Answering
the question, “as family member use of Facebook increases, does closeness to family members
decrease,” could help society understand the possible negative effects that these social
networking sites might have on family relationships.
So far most of the research done on families and their use of Facebook and other social
media sites suggests that families relationships and their connections are not decreasing (Fisher,
2012; O’Keefe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011; Parks, 2008). However these studies failed to consider
the amount of time spent of Facebook, what researchers say bonds a family, increases use of
Facebook, and the damage that sites like Facebook can do to one’s physical and mental health.
One justification to examine possible negative effects is the amount of time that family
members spend using technology. A study done by the Broadcaster Audience Research Board
found that teenagers now spend seven-and-a-half hours a day in front of a screen (Derbyshire,
2009). Seventy-five percent of teenagers now have their own cell phones (O’Keefe & ClarkePearson, 2011). Twenty-five percent of these teenagers use these cell phones for social media, 54
percent for texting, and 24 percent for instant messaging (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011).
Thus, it appears that teenagers are spending less time with their families and more time using
technology to access these social media sites and talking to their “network friends.”
Related to the increase use social media technology is an increased use of Facebook.
According to a recent poll, 22 percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social media sites
more than 10 times a day (O’Keefe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). In addition more than 50 percent
of adolescents log on to social media sites more than once a day (O'Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson,
2011). Thus, Facebook use could reduce family time.
Another reason to examine negative effects of Facebook relates to its effect on family
bonds. Although some research says that families and friends may feel a sense of security and
“closeness” when using these sites (Fisher, 2012), other research suggests that there is no
difference. Prior research has also stated that pre and early adolescents felt closer to their online
friends, also current research found the opposite (Pea, Nass, Meheula, Rance, Kumar, Banmford,
& Zhou, 2012). Thus more research needs to be done on social media effects on family
connection and whether or not family member use of Facebook decreases closeness to family
The main purpose of the purposed research is to understand family communication and
decide whether or not Facebook is harming family relationships. It will test the hypothesis “as
family member use of Facebook increases, closeness of family members decreases.” This
research proposal will first describe the literature review used to analyze and connect past
research. Later it will explain the method necessary to test the proposed hypothesis. And lastly it
will close with the concluding remarks about what the proposed research hopes to find and what
measured could be taken in future studies.
Literature Review
When testing the hypothesis, “as family member use of Facebook increases, closeness of
family members decreases” many related topics and areas had to be researched. Researching for
literature about Facebook, social media and family communication. Using the Communication
and Mass Media Complete link and entering keywords like social media sites, family and
communication helped create a thorough understanding of the topics listed above. Google
allowed for entering phrases to like emotional closeness, harmful effects, cyber bullying, and
social change, as well as allowing the entire research question to be inputting into the search
The literature review is divided into three sections. The first section examines the
potential benefits and risks of social media sites. The second section is about social media and
relationships. And the final section discusses the internets effect on well being and feeling of
Potential Benefits and Risks of Social Media Sites
Researchers who have studied social media sites have found various benefits of using
such media. Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (2008) examined online adolescent relationships
with friends, romantic partners, strangers, and their families in the context of their online
communication activities. Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (2008) looked how adolescents were
using electronic media to communicate, analyzed the uses for these medias, and explored how
parents and schools are responding to these interactions with electronic media.```` They found
that the use of social media offered adolescent benefits such as relieving social anxiety and
reinforcing existing relationships. O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson (2011) examined preadolescents
and adolescents, so that they could educate parents to become more aware of the nature of these
social media sites, as well as make sure that parents are keeping their children in healthy
environments. The study found that these sites benefited socialization and communication, as
well as enhanced learning opportunities and the ability to enhance creativity, ideas, and the
sharing of common interests. Subrahmanyam and Lampe (2009) and O’Keefe and ClarkePearson (2011) found that Facebook can help relieve anxiety, reinforce existing relationships,
and enhance socialization.
Researchers however, also found risks associated with using social media sites.
Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (2008) mention how teens may encounter racism and hate
messages on sites like MySpace and Facebook. They also say these sites are a general distraction
for children and adolescents, keeping them from their families, school work, and other necessary
daily activities. O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson (2011) examined in their study cyberbullying,
online harassment, sexting and Facebook depression. They found that these sites have many
harmful effects on children’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Meredith (2010) studied the 2006
cases of Lori Drew who used MySpace to harass Megan Meier. The cyberbullying lasted for
weeks, and ended with Megan hanging herself in her closet in response to Loir’s suggestion that
the world would be a better place without Megan. Meredith (2010) researched the severities of
cyberbullying and explained it as a potential risk when using social networking sites.
Cyberbullying being degrading and emotionally harmful towards children and adolescents.
Another possible risk comes from disclosing personal information online. Taraszow,
Aristodemou, Shitta, Laouris, and Arsoy (2010) examined the amount of personal and contact
information young people put on social networking sites, using Facebook as an example. The
study Taraszow and his team of researchers conducted looked at 131 young people’s Facebook
profiles and examined how young people deal with privacy issues on social media sites. The
researchers discovered that regardless of gender, people disclosed their full name, facial pictures,
hometown, and e-mail addresses in their profiles. Consistent with past research, Taraszow, et al.
(2010) also discovered that youth, especially between ages 18-22, seem to be unaware of the
potential risks they are facing when entering personal information in their profiles. Likewise,
McLaughlin and Vitak (2012) whose study explored how norms on social network sites evolve
over time and how violations of these norms impact individuals’ self-presentation and
relationship goals. After examining a series of focus groups, McLaughlin and Vitak (2012) found
that Facebook users, mostly regarding adolescents, are not concerned about the potential
negative repercussions of sharing such a large amount of content with very a large audience.
Acar (2008) uses an exploratory study that aims to explain the differences between real
life and Internet social networks. Acar (2008), also found risks associated with Facebook. Acar
found that Facebook users, especially adolescents, are risking their privacy. Acar (2008) also
found that are third parties that may build a database of Facebook data to sell to other networks.
Like Taraszow, et al (2008), Cho and Cheon (2005) found potential risks that the Internet
might have on families. Cho and Cheon (2005) examined the appropriateness of Internet content
amongst children and adolescents. They found that young family members are being exposed to
too much negative Internet content. Cho and Cheon (2005) studied the effect of family context
factors and how they can be applied to children’s exposure to negative Internet content. Cho and
Cheon (2005) found that these negative Internet “factors” play a part in physical, cognitive, and
social development of children.
Social Media and Relationships
Besides examining the benefits and risks of social media researchers have also studied
their potential effect on relationships. Researchers have compared the use of social media to
face-to-face communication and looked at factors such as closeness and disclosure.
Ledbetter (2009) examined family communication patterns and relational maintenance
behavior is associated with direct and mediated associations and friendship closeness. Ledbetter
(2009) found that families need to demonstrate both conversation orientation and conformity
orientation to maintain a bond and feeling of closeness. He reported that families need to
participate in unrestrained interaction about a wide array of topics, as well as stress homogeneity
towards family attitudes, values, and beliefs. Ledbetter (2009) found that this unrestrained
interaction will help bond a family, as well as make family members feel comfortable coming to
each other to talk about “a wide array of topics.” Overall Ledbetter (2009) said that through faceto-face communication a family would be more engaged in high conversation orientated
communication patterns.
Pea, et al (2012) also examined face-to-face communication, specifically studying media
use, face-to-face communication, and social well being among 8 to 12 year olds. After
examining 3, 461 North American girls the study indicated that negative social well being among
this age group was associated with the levels of media use. After researching, it was concluded
that as these media uses increased their association with negative socioemotional outcomes
increased. Pea and his fellow researchers also found that face-to-face communication was
associated with positive socioemotioal experiences and that online communication and direct
communication are not interchangeable. Pea, et al (2012) said that the variable most closely
related to with a wide array of positive social feelings was the same variable consistently omitted
in studies of media use; time spent in face-to-face communication. The higher the face-to-face
communication the greater social access, greater feelings of normalcy, more sleep, and fewer
friends whom parents were a bad influence.
Pollet, et al (2011) examined the use of social network sites, instant messaging, and
relationships. After studying 117 individuals, ages 18-63, Pollet, et al (2011) found that time
spent using social media was associated with the number of online “friends” the participants had,
however was not associated with feeling emotionally closer to them offline. They found that for
those that used social media, as compared to those that do not, did not have larger offline
networks and were not emotionally closer to offline network member. The number of friends a
person has online did not correlate with the number of friends a social network a person has
offline. Similarly, Manner, Blakely, Lawrence, O’Niell, and Raines (2011) also studied social
media and relationships. Their study found that exposing one’s social activities using Facebook
may have a negative effect for personal relationships. The study explored 317 current Facebook
users, who completed a study to explore the predictors of negative relationship experiences on
Facebook. The negative effect being engaging in social networking sites may lead to risky
behaviors and have threatened privacy practices, resulting in information disclosure that damages
personal relationships. McLaughlin and Vitak (2011) also studied online social networking sites
and how they create potential for negative relational outcomes. They explained that their study
found that young adult users of online social networking sites, like Facebook, do not recognize
the possible negative repercussions and are more likely to experience relational problems. Acar
(2008) found that some adolescent suffer from low self-esteem that can be influenced by
interacting online because of online depression, cyberbullying, and overexposure to negative
Overall researchers have found that social media offers some benefits such as relieving
social anxiety, reinforcing existing relationships, increasing socialization and communication,
and enhancing creativity. However researchers also note risks such as online harassment,
exposure to negative Internet content, and spending too much time on these sites. It is this last
risk that will be examined in this proposed study. Researchers indicate that spending time with
one another and having open communication is important for having close family ties. This
proposed study, then, will add to knowledge about family relationships and the influence family
member use of Facebook has on it.
This research study will attempt to test the hypothesis, “as family member use of
Facebook increases, closeness of family members decreases” using survey methodology. It will
use survey methodology to focus on the increase of family member use of Facebook and to
evaluate their closeness. It will use non-random sampling to look at the Harrisonburg, VA
population of 49,973. Researchers will send out a press release to the local media to try recruit
The press release will ask for families who have children who are aged 13 or older and
who use Facebook. Participants will be selected by responding to the press release that will be
released to the Harrisonburg County. The study will attempt to recruit at least 380 families for a
.05 significance level for sampling purposes. This will ensure 95% confidence and accuracy.
After the families have been selected and have given their consent, researchers will
employ an online survey. Demographic that will be collected through the survey, is each persons
gender. In this study demographic variables will not effect the results as much as another study.
This survey will ask questions that will measure closeness and Facebook use. Facebook use can
be described by the amount of time an individual spends on Facebook. The definition also takes
into account, who you are communicating with on Facebook. Some questions that will measure
the amount of time spent on Facebook will be, “how much time do you spend on Facebook,” “if
under 18, do your parents have limitations for the amount of time you are allowed to use
Facebook,” and/or “Have often do you communicate with your family/friends through
Facebook?” Closeness can be defined as the degree to which assess two peoples emotional bond
with one another. The definition also includes the degree of idiosyncratic knowledge people have
of another person. Some questions that will assess this definition would be, “How much do you
think you know about each family member,” “do you feel comfortable disclosing personal
information with your family members,” or “if you are under 18, do you feel like your parents
are support your decisions.” These questions will be answered using a likert scale to test the two
variables. They will also help us understand what each family member is using the site for and
whom they are communicating with. The survey will be a cross-sectional survey. The survey will
only need to be taken once, by each family member. This way it will be less expensive and less
time consuming considering how many families and their family members will need to take it.
The survey questions can be found in the appendix.
After conducting the survey, we will use descriptive statistics to look at the frequencies,
crosstabs, mean, mode, range, and median. We will need to find the standard error, as a way to
estimate the accuracy of each questions and assess if they represent the sample population. We
will have to test our confidence level to make sure that we assess the responses people give us,
and estimate the amount of error in responses. We will hope to have at least 95% confidence.
We hope to have a negative relationship, as Facebook use increases, family closeness decreases.
If this does not occur then, we will most likely have a positive relationship, which would mena
use Facebook use increases, family closeness increases.
Before families are even contacted, the IRB’s approval will be needed to make sure the
study is obtaining all of the required requirements. The IRB will make sure that the families
rights are protected, that they will not be harmed, and the study will maximize the benefits for
participants and society.
After receiving IRB approval, researchers will also need to provide an explanation on
what is required of the families during the study. Potential research families will given them the
free choice to participate in the study, they will be provided with potential risks and benefits of
the study. Researchers will answer any questions, secure written consent, and ensure
confidentiality before receiving their informed consent. They will be told how much time will be
needed from their family if chosen to participate in the study. Families will have their rights and
responsibilities clearly laid out for them. Once permission from the families is given, researchers
will have the consent they need to go forward with the study.
Like all studies, there will be some limitations. Having each participant answer each
question honestly might be a challenge. Family members may feel uncomfortable answering
some of the survey questions. This study is also limited because it is only using the Harrisonburg
County population. It is also limited to families that were willing to respond to the postcard.
Families might also we tired of answering questions. They also might not understand the
questions. However, making the survey questions as concise as possible will be very beneficial.
The ethical considerations that must be taken into account when doing this research
parallel with the permission received or not received by family members. If each family member
is informed about what is exactly going on and what they are going to be exposed to, researchers
will know that they are not violating the individual’s right. With that approval, researchers will
go forth and benefit as many people as they can by maximizing the good of their research and
minimizing the harm to these individuals. They will treat each participant fairly and equally to
ensure that they remain ethical.
Overall, this study proposes to test the hypothesis “as Facebook use increases, does family
closeness decrease?” This study is important because there has not been much research on the
topic of Facebook use and its effect on family closeness. With technology being increasingly
more popular and more time consuming, relationships may be suffering. It is important to see if
traditional styles of family communication are transforming and becoming more reliant on social
media sites, like Facebook or are they being harmed by communication decreasing because of
the amount of time being spent. I am requesting permission to conduct this study on behalf of
saving family relationships and making sure that new technology is not harming them.
Acar, Adam. (2008). Antecedents and consequences of online social networking behavior:
The case of Facebook." Journal Of Website Promotion.” 3(1/2). 63-83.
Cho C., & Cheon, H.J. (2005). Children's exposure to negative internet content: Effects of
family context. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 49, (4) . 488-509.
Derbyshire, D. (2009, February 23). Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling
warning to parents from top neuroscientist. Retrieved from
Fisher, E. (2012). How less alienation creates more exploitation? Audience labour on social
network sites. Triplec (Cognition, Communication, Co-Operation): Open Access Journal
For A Global Sustainable Information Society, 10(2), 171-183. Retrieved from
Grusec, J.E., & Hastings P. (2007). Handbook of socialization: Theory and research. New York,
NY: Guilford Press. Retrieved from
Ledbetter, A. M. (2009). Family communication patterns and relational maintenance
behavior: Direct and mediated associations with friendship closeness. Human
Communication Research, 35(1), 130-147. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2008.01341.x
Manner, C., Blakley, S., Lawrence, S., O'Neill, E., & Raines, C. (2011). Understanding the
predictors of negative personal relationship experiences on Facebook. International
Journal Of Humanities & Social Science, 1(9), 16-33. Retrieved from
McLaughlin, C., & Vitak, J. (2012). Norm evolution and violation on Facebook. New Media &
Society, 14(2), 299-315. doi:10.1177/1461444811412712
Meredith, J. P. (2010). Combating cyberbullying: emphasizing education over
criminalization. Federal Communications Law Journal, 63(1), 311-340. Retrieved from
O’Keefe, G.S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011)The impact of social media on children,
adolescents, and families. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
127 (4). 800-804. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0054
Parks, M. R. (2008). Characterizing the communicative affordances of myspace: A place for
friends or a friendless place?. Paper presented at International Communication
Association Conference, 1-29. Retrieved from Communication and Mass Media
Complete Database
Pea, R., Nass, C., Meheula, L., Rance, M., Kumar, A., Bamford, H., & Zhou, M. (2012). Media
use, face-to-face communication, media multitasking, and social well being among
8- to 12-year-old girls. Developmental Psychology, 48(2), 327-336.
Pollet, T.V., Roberts , S.G.B., & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2011). Use of social network sites and instant
messaging does not lead to increased offline social network size, or to emotionally
closer relationships with offline network members. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and
Social Media Networking, 14 (4). 253-258. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0161
Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2009). Connection strategies: Relationship formation and
maintenance on social network sites. Paper presented at International
Communication Association Conference, 1-39. Retrieved from Communication and Mass
Media Complete Database
Subrahmanyam, K., & Greenfield, P., (2008). Online communication and adolescent
relationships. The Future of Children, 18 (1), 119-146. Retrieved from
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personal and contact information by young people in social networking sites: An
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Online Survey:
1.) How often do you use your Faceook?
a) Very frequently-three or more times a day
b) Frequently- once or more times a day
c) Occasionally- a few times a week
d) Rarely- a few times a month
e) Seldom- less than once a month
2.) If you use Facebook daily, how frequently do you check Facebook?
a) 9 or more times a day
b) 7-8 times a day
c) 5-6 times a day
d) 3-4 times a day
e) 1-2 times a day
3.) Gender?
a) Male
b) Female
4.) What is your age?
a) Under 12
e) 35-54
b) 13-17
f) 55-64
c) 18-24
g) 65-74
d) 25-34
h) 75 or older
5.) How often do you communicate with your immediate family (parents, children,
brothers, sisters) through Facebook?
a) Very frequently-three or more times a day
b) Frequently- once or more times a day
c) Occasionally- a few times a week
d) Rarely- a few times a month
e) Seldom- less than once a month
6.) How often do you communicate with your close friends through Facebook?
a) Very frequently-three or more times a day
b) Frequently- once or more times a day
c) Occasionally- a few times a week
d) Rarely- a few times a month
e) Seldom- less than once a month
7.) If you’re under 18, do your parents limit the amount of time that you are
allowed to use Facebook?
a) Yes
b) No
8.) If you are a parent, do you have any limitations to the amount of time you let your
children use Facebook?
a) Yes
b) No
9.) How often are you on the internet on non-Facebook sites a day?
a) Very frequently-three or more times a day
b) Frequently- once or more times a day
c) Occasionally- a few times a week
d) Rarely- a few times a month
e) Seldom- less than once a month
10.) How often do you have face-to-face communication with your family members?
a) Very frequently-three or more times a day
b) Frequently- once or more times a day
c) Occasionally- a few times a week
d) Rarely- a few times a month
e) Seldom- less than once a month
11.) Do you feel comfortable talking to your parents about any topic?
a) Yes
b) Almost every topic
c) Most topics
d) Some topics
e) Hardly any topics
12.) If you are under 18, do you feel like you parents support decisions you make?
a) Very Frequently
b) Frequently
c) Occasionally
d) Rarely
e) Almost Never
13.) When you have a conflict, do you feeling comfortable talking to your family
about it?
a) Always
b) Almost Always
c) Occasionally
d) Rarely
e) Almost Never
14.) If you are under 18, do you feel like your parents monitor your online access?
a) Always
b) Almost Always
c) Occasionally
d) Rarely
e) Almost Never
15.) If you are a parent, do you feel like you monitor you child/children’s online
a) Always
b) Almost Always
c) Occasionally
d) Rarely
e) Almost Never