Why do some young adults keep their online behavior private for their parents?
Young adults who have just left the parental home differ in how much of their online life they share with their parents. This study in Communication Research Reports shows that parents’ upbringing styles are a good explanation for these differences.
- Young adults who have grown up in a in a more “traditional” family in which shared values, attitudes and beliefs are seen as important, more often see it as an invasion of their privacy when their parents follow them on social media. They are more likely to shield what they do online from their parents.
- In contrast, young adults who have grown up in a family in which all members were encouraged into unrestrained conversations about a wide array of topics, less often see it as an invasion of their privacy when parents follow them on social media. They are less likely to shield what they do online from their parents.
- Thus, creating an open family communication environment will increase the chance that children will allow their parents in their online lives when they grow up and leave the family home.
300 participants (female: n = 136; 45%) between 18 and 30 years old (average age = 26 years)
This was an online study through MTurk among young people living in the US, who had moved out of the parental home less than 2 years ago, who had an account on at least one of the most popular SNS in the US at that moment (Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter), and had one or more parents who had an account on the same SNS. The participants filled out questions about their own and their parents’ behavior on social media, how they shielded content from their parents. In addition, they indicated their parents’ upbringing style when they were still living at home (oriented towards conformity or open conversation).
Facts and findings
- Young adults who grew up in a family emphasizing conformity more often shielded SNS content from their parents after having left the parental home.
- In contrast, young adults who grew up in a family encouraging open conversation less often shielded SNS content from their parents after having left the parental home.
- Young adults who indicated to find it a privacy invasion if parents could see their online behavior much more often shielded SNS content from their parents.