Posted by admin on October 2, 2017

Should You Friend Your Grown Kids on Facebook?

How has social media changed our lives? At the public level, Facebook and Twitter have largely shaped an alternative (as opposed to mainstream) political, cultural, and international narrative.  On a more personal level, it has changed not only the way the generations communicate with but also about each other.  And it makes managing the most personal privacy boundaries a source of friction in many families.

Recent research indicates that Facebook use, privacy concern and privacy protection changes over time. In middle adulthood, (40-65)  there is greater concern about privacy than in emerging or young adulthood. Yet these users reportedly use privacy settings less frequently than their teenage and older children do. The choice for more or less privacy may differ according to specifics and influences how interpersonal boundaries are negotiated. In the 40-65 group, a third never adapted their privacy settings during the previous year and even fewer changed their settings more than two times.

This could be partially explained by the finding that middle adults are less technically savvy than younger users, but family and personal boundary style also influence privacy concern.  Many parents complain that the only way they know what their grown kids are doing is on Facebook, and just as many of their children are mystified by their reaction: “I didn’t mention a trip I took to Mexico, but a friend who was there tagged me in a picture so she saw it and acted like I’d kept a huge secret from her,” said one.  The mother of a FB-using 27 year old is an intensely private person who eschews social media, and was horrified to be informed of what she considered confidential family matters in a Facebook shout-out to her daughter that popped up on the newsfeed of a good friend who  is also a FB friend of her daughter’s. A different perspective comes from the 62 year old mother of two adult children, “I would never friend my kids on FB; I consider that a boundary violation,” she said. Yet, from her own Facebook account, she occasionally sees their public posts, especially when they’re traveling – “It’s like going with them,” she says.

There came a time in my young adult life, before social media, when my mother would occasionally say “Don’t tell me about it, I know enough things.” Usually it was when I was recounting an adventure she thought perilous or a relationship she viewed as “meshugenah,” which is Yiddish for crazy.  When my own kids were the same age, I felt somewhat the same way; I remember telling my 20 year old daughter as she embarked on a  semester in Guatemala, “Promise me you’ll never let someone call me from a hospital and ask if you’re my daughter. If you’re not well enough to call me yourself I don ‘t want to know about it.”  “What if I’m dead or dying?” she countered. “You won’t be,”I said – thus do mothers beseech the Universe.  But I always listened, even though when I was disturbed by what they sometimes told me, I channeled my mother and the words I swore I’d never say.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t occasionally  wish I could.

Our family boundary style has generally been loose and open – that happens when you habitually write about your kids, which I’ve been doing since my first book. They have suffered some embarrassment (Imagine being a sixth grader when your Mom comes to Career  Day and you have to say the words, “Sex and the Single Parent”.) My son-in-law says like mother, like daughter – “no boundaries” –  and my son, who feels the same way, nods in agreement.  No surprise that he’s not big on social media – “If there’s something I want to tell or ask you, I will,” he says. I’m more careful of their privacy boundaries now, but am pleased with how Facebook lets me into their lives in ways that even regular phone calls and texts don’t. .When my daughter and her husband spent a year in Asia, I went with them via Facebook (and Skype) in a way that simply wasn’t possible when she was 20, when phone calls were expensive and postcards took weeks to arrive. I keep in touch with my teenage grandkids on Instagram, and  fret about whether they’re thinking about future employers or college admissions officers before they post (is it possible there’s a pic of a 20 something boy that doesn’t contain a beer can?)  I like the way social media keeps me involved in the lives of some of my more distant friends and makes me feel less isolated on days when I am. But I don’t wan’t my life to be an open book unless  I write it that way.

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