Some parents have battled over technology use with their children since grammar school. First came the debate on what age to allow their own cellphones. Then we moved on to laptops in the bedroom, limiting computer time, blocking certain websites. Then texting during meals and conversations. Now we move on to social media, the alternate universe where young adults typically spend more than three hours daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among other apps.
Whether cyberspace is alien territory or friendly turf depends on both parents and children and their possibly competing desires. Of course, many use social media like an ongoing digital family reunion, especially if scattered around the country and world. Yet even with a share-everything-there's-no-privacy mind-set, some millennials equate parents lurking on their social media with snooping in a diary. While some sites, like LinkedIn and Pinterest, are relatively innocuous, the big three raise thorny issues:
- Facebook. Should you friend your child? Should you friend your child's friends? Most millennials have a strong opinion: Some welcome their parents as friends and enjoy posts. Others adopt a "look-but-don't-touch" policy, allowing parents to be friends but ban them from commenting with even a "like." Still others refuse to friend their parents to maintain their privacy.
- Instagram. Do you really want to see endless photos of sushi? Beyond what your child ordered for dinner, some photos give new meaning to PG. Some millennials allow parents to "follow" them but here too apply a "no questions asked" rule: Yes, that's your young adult dancing on a table, but don't ask the occasion!
- Twitter. If you can figure out the Twitter name (some children deliberately choose hard-to-guess handles), you (and the world) can read tweets that range from insanely boring to too much information. A professor colleague recently blogged about how students over-share on Twitter. On the morning one student was too sick to show up for class, he graphically let the whole world - including her - know with a tweet.
My friend Betty Ming Liu is a social media pro, yet her college student daughter refuses to FB friend mom or share her Instagram user name. And Betty respects her daughter's decision: "The basic human dynamic at work is her quest for adulthood. I guess I already hover enough. She doesn't need me tracking her all over cyberspace too!"
Mary W. Quigley's blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.
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