What’s a “Parasocial Relationship”? A Parent’s Guide to Navigating Kids’ Digital Connections

Parasocial Relationships

Are you a parent with a child glued to their phone or computer screen? If so, you’re not alone.

Our kids live increasingly online in this digital age, from watching their favorite YouTubers to following social media influencers. They engage with the virtual world in ways we never imagined. And it’s time we, as parents, wrap our heads around it.

One term you might be unfamiliar with but should know is “parasocial relationships.” Sounds fancy, huh? But what exactly does it mean? And more, why should it matter to you as a parent? Let’s dive in.

What are “Parasocial Relationships”?

Psychologists first coined parasocial relationships in the 1950s. It describes the one-sided emotional bonds that people form with media figures.

Here’s an example: 

Remember, as a kid, you felt connected to a famous person or pop stars, even though they had no idea we existed? That’s a classic parasocial relationship.

In today’s digital landscape, parasocial relationships have taken on a new form. With the rise of social media platforms and streaming services, children are forming connections with personalities like YouTubers and TikTokers.

The Digital Spin on Parasocial Relationships

Technology has brought these relationships closer than ever before. On social media, influencers often share personal moments, making your child feel like they’re a part of their lives.

They’ll post breakfast photos, share thoughts about their day, and discuss their hopes and dreams. And it’s all right there, accessible at your child’s fingertips. The “fourth wall” between the audience and the performer has disappeared.

How it Impacts Your Children

Parasocial relationships are not wrong. They can provide kids with role models, inspiration, and educational content. But like any relationship, it’s about balance and understanding.

There are potential risks. For example, these relationships can sometimes lead to intense feelings of attachment and affect a child’s self-esteem if they compare their life to the ‘perfect’ lives they see online.

Additionally, influencers may promote products or behaviors without explaining their effects, which might cause children to follow suit without understanding the implications.

What Can You, as Parents, Do?

Understanding these virtual relationships is the first step. Here are some practical tips to help manage your child’s online interactions:

  • Open dialogue: Talk to your child about their online experiences. Ask them about the influencers they follow and the content they consume.
  • Set boundaries: Track screen time and set limits. Encourage offline activities as well to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
  • Teach critical thinking: Encourage your child to question what they see online. Remind them that the online world often presents a filtered version of reality.
  • Guide their choices: Help them to choose positive and appropriate role models online. A wealth of great content is out there; they need some guidance.

Resources for Concerned Parents

If you’re concerned about your child’s online behaviors, don’t worry – there’s a wealth of resources available to help:


  • In a study by Pew Research Center, approximately 80% of teens follow a social media influencer, highlighting the prevalence of parasocial relationships in young people’s lives.
  • According to Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking Journal, around 60% of children and teenagers reported feeling close to an online influencer, further emphasizing the impact of parasocial relationships on today’s youth.

Final Thoughts 

It’s important to remember that technology is not the enemy. It’s a tool; like any tool, it’s about how we use it.

Parasocial relationships, while a unique facet of today’s digital world, don’t have to be a cause for concern. By understanding them and guiding our children, we can help ensure they have a positive and balanced online experience.

After all, being a parent is all about adapting and learning, right? So let’s continue this journey together in the ever-evolving world of children and technology.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. We’re all in this together, navigating through this digital landscape, one day at a time.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Share this guide with other parents and join the discussion. We’d love your thoughts, concerns, and insights about your child’s digital world!


Are parasocial relationships a new phenomenon?

No, parasocial relationships are not new, as psychologists described in the 1950s. What’s new is how these relationships have evolved with the rise of technology and social media.

Are parasocial relationships harmful to my child?

Parasocial relationships aren’t harmful. They can offer positive influences and a sense of connection. But, like any relationship, they can have negative impacts if not managed. These can range from unrealistic expectations to over-attachment.

How can I prevent my child from forming parasocial relationships?

It’s not about preventing these relationships but guiding your child’s understanding. Open dialogue, setting boundaries, and teaching critical thinking can help your child navigate these relationships.

Can parasocial relationships have any positive impacts on my child?

Absolutely! Parasocial relationships can offer companionship, role models, and even educational content. They can be a source of inspiration and motivation for your child.

How can I talk to my child about their online relationships without invading their privacy?

It’s about fostering open and respectful conversations. Show genuine interest in what they’re doing and consuming online. Ask open-ended questions and listen. Ensure they understand you intend to guide them, not control or spy on them.

A writer and mother working to provide the best advice and support for navigating the internet in a safe and secure manner.