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Parents are not welcome as Facebook friends, finds LSE study

Young people don't want to be friends with their parents on Facebook, preferring to keep their social and family lives separate, research by academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found.

The potential embarrassment caused by parents seeing something on the social networking site that their offspring would prefer to keep hidden  was among the reasons  given by  students interviewed for the study .  Interviewees also highlighted a worry that their privacy would be invaded by well-meaning mothers wanting to check on their child's well-being.

Professor Anne West, Professor Jane Lewis, and research assistant Peter Currie, from LSE's Department of Social Policy, carried out a study exploring the attitudes of students towards accepting older adults, particularly parents, as Facebook friends.

In their article 'Students' Facebook 'friends': public and private spheres', published online in the Journal of Youth Studies this week, they also looked at notions of privacy, examining to what extent users viewed Facebook as a public space.

They write: ‘On the basis of our findings, interviewees did not appear to conceive of there being two distinct realms of the public and the private….the user’s private social world is his or her ‘public’, comprising Facebook friends.’

One of the main reservations about accepting parents as ‘friends’, the report found, was that they would have open access to information about their child’s social life.

‘For a number of reasons, parents were rarely Facebook friends and there was a clear view that in general they would not be welcomed,’ the report said.

A sample of London-based undergraduate students, aged between 21 and 26, were interviewed as part of the study. Only one had their mum as a Facebook friend.

Most had anxieties about the thought of their parents being on Facebook. But while some admitted they would reject a ‘friend request’ from their parents, others said they wouldn’t in case it hurt their feelings.

One interviewee feared accepting his mother would intrude on his social and personal life: ‘I would add her, but I would also be quite scared she would be like posting on my wall, just general things like ‘‘How are you, love, are you all right? _ ah, I got your letters today’’ _ it would be a little embarrassing’.

‘The reasons for not wanting older adults, and particularly parents, as friends appeared to be related to embarrassment, social norms, and worries about mothers being exposed and made vulnerable,’ the article says. ‘Underlying these reasons are various notions of privacy.’

Ends

For more information call LSE press office on 020 7955 7417.

 1 December 2009

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