Accepting Mom’s Friend Request

As I did this week’s readings for class, I could not help but think about the most recent episode of Modern Family, “Send Out the Clowns.”  This particular episode deals with Claire’s introduction to Facebook and how her daughters, Haley and Alex, react. Although the situation is highly satirical and an over dramatization to what may go on between parents and children in real life households, the TV show does call attention to the relationship between parents and youth when it comes to social media.

After Claire confronts her children about accepting her Facebook friend request, her kids privately tell the camera, “We got her request the first time but ignored it. I can’t have her on there snooping around seeing what I’m doing at parties. Or posting pictures of us on family vacations wearing old, dorky clothes ” (Modern Family).  This resistance of parental access completely represents danah boyd and Alice Marwick’s Social Steganography: Privacy in Networked Publics definition of privacy according to teens and its importance to them.  boyd and Marwick note, “the absence of parents is regularly a key factor for teens to feel as though they have privacy” (boyd and Marwick 3).  At one point in the episode Claire continues to nag her kids to allow her to access their profiles.  She says, “what is so private that I can’t possibly see it?” (Modern Family).  To this, the girls quickly answer, “nothing,” yet they still resist their mother’s access.  Similarly in boyd and Marwick’s piece, 17-year-old Bly takes the same stance. “It’s not like I do anything to be ashamed of, but a girl needs her privacy. I do online journals so I can communicate with my friends. Not so my mother could catch up on the latest gossip of my life” (boyd and Marwick 5).  Even on a public forum, teens consider what they post private.

To many teens’ dismay though, parents are finding ways to access their so-called “private” information.  According to a survey by OnePoll, 55% of parents check up on their kids’ social networking profiles.

So how do teens deal with parents who try to snoop?  In the Modern Family episode, Haley tells her mom that she didn’t even receive her friend request, claiming, “you know they have a lot of blocks on there to protect kids from weirdos” (Modern Family).  Haley uses her mom’s lack of knowledge about the medium to her advantage.  In fact, this avoidance strategy is not far off from the teens that use Text Free and Text Plus as a way to trick their parents into bypassing information they might want to see.  Both Haley and the Text Free/Text Plus users can get away with lying to their parents due to their parents unfamiliarity with technology in the first place.

I think adults’ lack of knowledge about social media makes them feel as if they should be more concerned about youth social media use than what is actually necessary.  This reminds me of Amy Adele Hasinoff’s piece, Sexting as media production: Re-thinking dominant ideas about teen girls and sexuality online.  Hasinoff says the that moral panic surrounding social media is similar to that of the, “fears about the telephone and the telegraph when they were first introduced: that young women might use these communications technologies to make contact with inappropriate or dangerous romantic and sexual partners” (Hasinoff 4).  With each new technology that is introduced, adults repetitively let social anxieties fall on the technologies themselves, rather than addressing the true, underlying problems in the situation.  Because adults don’t fully understand the platforms, they blame the platforms, when really they are nothing but media for affairs that would probably still happen if the technology didn’t exist.

To that end, Claire demonstrates her lack of understanding about Facebook by asking her daughters to, “tear down the wall,” when she is tagged in drinking photos from college. This brings up a point that I don’t think was mentioned in the readings, but surely exists in everyday life.  Do parents want privacy from their children just as children want privacy from their parents? Teens may not want their parents to see what goes on their profiles because they are embarrassed or gossiping, but parents may not want their kids to see reconnections with ex-lovers or college partying pictures.  As being the biggest influence in a child’s life, parents seem to have a bit at stake too when they allow their children to access their social media world.

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2 Comments

  1. First of all, I LOVE Modern Family and also thought that episode was exactly on point with the week’s privacy readings. I feel like parents can be like little teenage girls (or boys!) stalking their crush on Facebook, but instead of looking for cute pictures, parents are looking for inappropriate postings that they can punish their kids for.

    The more I thought about the points that you made about overbearing SNS parents, the more I realized that they don’t apply much to my life at all. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like this parent snooping issue is a very westernized practice. My parents are from China and while they are quite oblivious about the functions of Facebook and other social media sites, they do know about them and the horror stories that go hand-in-hand with them. They also know that my sisters and I use FB frequently, but not once have they ever asked who we are friends with or what kind of pictures we post online. It is almost as if this moral panic surrounding social media doesn’t exist in my culture, even though my family is very Americanized (again, please correct me if I am over-generalizing). My parents always warn me about talking to strangers or taking the subway alone late at night, but this worry about “stranger danger” doesn’t exactly translate online to them. Perhaps it’s because they don’t see the Internet as a physical, harmful space, or perhaps they just trust me enough to think that I would never send nude photos of myself to people or meet strangers online.

    What I’m calling the westernized way of online parenting and I guess the “easternized” way of online parenting present two extremes. The westernized way, as you said, “ lets social anxieties fall on the technologies themselves, rather than addressing the true, underlying problems in the situation.” On the other hand, the easternized way may be too lax or ignorant of the potential danger than social media sites can pose on their children. Nonetheless, I don’t exactly see a happy medium between the two. Is it possible for parents to do just the right amount of snooping?

    Reply
  2. sn1014

     /  April 19, 2012

    Parents and Facebook; two words that don’t work together very well. When I first started to use Facebook, my parents were pretty oblivious to the network. It wasn’t until my mother received a phone call from her best friend who felt the need to notify her about the site- and had to mention that I looked “cute” in my profile picture. I was a freshman in high school, about fifteen years old, an age where parents were considered enemies.
    To my surprise, my mother did not take a negative approach to the network. She seemed content that I was able to connect so easily with people in my community. I was hardly concerned that she would by spying on me because I thought she wouldn’t know how to work the network! I was pretty shocked when she actually made her own page.
    I had nothing to hide, but I still didn’t want her looking. I was young and naive and had not been posting inappropriate pictures anyway. Instead, I was embarrassed that she had one herself! It was pretty weird for me to see my mother uploading pictures and tagging me. My news feed kept showing stories of my mother finding her old friends and commenting on their walls. When she commented on my profile picture, it was the last straw. I had to remove her as a friend. I must say, I removed her in a mature way (probably so that she would not question my removal.) I approached her and told her it was uncomfortable for me to have her invade my space and I was also uncomfortable invading her space that was created to be between her and her friends. Funny because she agreed! This relates to the question asked in the original post, what about parents who want privacy from their kids?
    Obviously my mother was not posting anything inappropriate. She was just interacting with her friends on network that did not relate to me. It also came to my attention over the years that more of my friends mothers created profiles. Some of them were “fake” names to spy on their children, but some were to expand their own social networks. I’ve even had friends whose single parents used the site for personal reasons, and it was extremely awkward to befriend them. From personal experience, I do believe that parents need their personal space as well whether it be to reconnect with old high school friends or to meet new people.
    “Accepting Mom’s Friend Request” is the perfect example of a conflict that many young adults go through. I kept my mother unfriended throughout high school, and even blocked her completely at a point. It was probably just the age, but I wanted nothing to do with my parents on my online space. When I turned 18, I became much closer to my mother and accepted her friend request. She now respects my space and I hers (no comments, no stalking etc.)

    Reply

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