As Parent Center staff, you realize how important networking opportunities can be in helping your own family or the families you work with. Military families, with their highly mobile life, can benefit from using Social Media to network and find out about a new location and supports available for their children with special needs. Social Media is a valuable tool to help military families get and stay connected to an ever changing environment, available services and resources.
According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 97% of 18-29 year-olds and 93% of 30-49 year-olds report using the Internet, as of early 2014. Of the adults online, 74% use social networking sites. Facebook is by far the dominant platform, used by 84% of 18-29 year-olds and 79% of 30-49 year-olds (Duggan & Smith, 2013) and 19% use Twitter. In mid-2013, 22% used LinkedIn, 21% used Pinterest, and 17% used Instagram. Regardless of which site used by adults online, the remarkable fact is since 2008, the number of people using social networking sites has nearly doubled (Hampton et al., 2011). It’s clear, we’re online and we know your centers recognize this too and are using these sites for your outreach.
In what age category then are most of our active duty military personnel? The chart below clearly indicates the majority of active duty personnel, regardless of branch of service, are between 22 and 30 years of age. Add to this nugget of information, that the average age of active duty military personnel is 25.7 when they have their first child. Therefore, combining the high volume use of social networking sites by this age group (22-30 years of age) validates what you probably already know- this is how to reach them. This becomes even more relevant for your work on behalf of their child with special needs.
Finally, here are a few specific online associations dedicated to military families with special needs children.
- American Military Families Autism Support (AMFAS)
- Military Special Needs Network
- National Military Family Association (NMFA)
You can refer military families to these social media supports if they’re not currently using them; in fact, you might want to create a page on your website with these and other military-specific resources. You don’t have to search for that information-just link to the Branch website page Military-Specific Websites and Social Media. You can add parent handouts to your military family page: check our article Easy Branch Orientation and Guide to Staff Training. Want more ideas? We have lots of resources to suggest and ideas for getting the word out to military families-just contact us!