This is my final news article that I turned in for my Communications 211 class. It's just homework, but maybe it will be published in The Daily Universe, who knows.
April 16, 2009
Section 7, Comms 211
Students at Brigham Young University have nothing to fear when it comes to their parents joining Facebook.
While many Facebook users are afraid of their behavior away from home being discovered by their parents, BYU students are resting easy.
Facebook, the online social networking site, opened to the general public in September 2007. Since then, many Facebook users have reacted with fear and anger to older generations joining Facebook.
“This is an outrage!” said Mike Yeamans, a student at James Madison University, in a Washington Post article last year.
Facebook is seeing its greatest growth with users between the ages of 35 and 54. According to a January 2009 survey by iStrategyLabs, the number of Facebook users who fall into this age bracket has grown 276.4 percent since just six months before.
Many of Facebook’s early users who joined before Facebook expanded to off-campus users feel Facebook rightfully belongs to them and their peers. They feel allowing their parents and other older users to be on Facebook is a violation of their privacy.
Sarah Harvey, a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., was shocked to learn her mother was now on Facebook.
“Facebook is for my generation!” Harvey said in a feature story dated March 31 in The Trinity Tripod.
However, at BYU, many students find such restrictions unnecessary. Many are not even aware there is a problem.
Morgan Ahrens, an international relations major from Tucson, Ariz., barely notices parents are joining Facebook.
“I’ve seen it a little bit,” Ahrens said. “I guess parents can get a better idea of what their kids are up to. But I think the main reason is to stay in contact with their friends.”
Julie Wiscombe, a BYU public relations major from Austin, Texas, was a little surprised to find uncles and aunts on Facebook. Now she is grateful for another way to communicate and connect with them.
“It freaked me out at first, but it’s cool now,” Wiscombe said.
Wiscombe said parents now have another way to interact with their children, and does not see many parents using Facebook to supervise or monitor them.
“I imagine some might do that, but I don’t think it’s the real reason,” Wiscombe said. “I think it’s just because it’s there. Social media is just everywhere.”
Parents are also dismissing the notion that Facebook lets parents get too close.
Janey Berg, a mother and grandmother from Hood River, Ore., said she has never considered using Facebook to spy on her children.
“It’s never entered my mind,” Berg said.
Berg loves to keep in touch with children and friends with Facebook. Through Facebook, she even found a long-lost nephew whom she had not seen for years.
The confidence to use Facebook without fear of what parents might find is not limited to BYU.
Cara Jones, a former student at Arizona State University, is a longtime Facebook user. She joined before Facebook opened up to the general public.
Jones originally felt Facebook was meant for single college students. She was married when she joined, but because she was the same age as many college students she decided to join anyway.
“I was married, but only 19,” Jones said. “So I still considered myself ‘Facebookable.’”
Years later when Jones first noticed her mother and other older users had joined the Facebook network it was something she had to get used to.
“At first it made me not want to be on Facebook,” Jones said.
Later, Jones saw the benefit of staying connected to the adults she admired when she was younger. Now, at age 22, Jones has become one of those adults for those younger than her.
“One of my old Beehives asked me to be her friend,” Jones said, referring to a girl she taught in the young women program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jones admits Facebook can be used by parents to see what their children are up to. But to Jones, that may not be such a bad thing.
“I actually think it is important to know what your kids are doing and what they are involved in,” Jones said. “Since they let younger kids join Facebook that naturally opened the door for parents to join.”
Jones’ mother, Saundra Gall from Lehi, Utah, is more worried about protecting her children from those who threaten their online privacy than she is about spying on her children.
In comparison to other networking sites, such as MySpace, Gall is much more welcoming of Facebook.
“I have been on those sites and so many of them are horrible,” Gall said. “Pictures that are inappropriate, language and all sorts of things. I feel it is a much safer environment than I ever felt with MySpace,” Gall said.
Gall can understand how some college students might feel their privacy is lost when their parents join Facebook. But to Gall, safety comes first.
“As a parent I like being able to know my kids are safe,” Gall said.
Debbie McCarthy, from Odell, Ore., has children who are still younger than Facebook's target audience. But McCarthy is cautious about sharing her children's information with others online.
She has only recently posted pictures online of her children, and has many Facebook parent friends who still have not.
McCarthy is hesitant in allowing her children to join Facebook when they are older.
“I think I would let a kid on it,” McCarthy said. But, “I’m not totally open to it,” she said.
Ruth Marcus, an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post, argues children should let their parents on Facebook for their own protection.
“As I learned when I tried to friend the children of some close friends, this is considered a terrible faux pas, somewhere between intrusive and creepy,” Marcus said in a column on April 9. “But if the notion of a lurking parent makes [my daughter] or her friends think twice before posting something, well, that's all to the good.”
Experts on the family are promoting Facebook as a valuable tool for parents.
A Stanford University professor is even offering courses to educate parents about Facebook and how joining can help them protect their children. Dr. B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford, says Facebook is crucial for parents these days.
Fogg assures parents who are worried about irritating their children that joining Facebook is different from snooping through their children’s bedrooms.
“In a bedroom, acts are not observable by hundreds of people. In contrast, what your child does on Facebook is widely observable,” Fogg said on his website, www.facebookforparents.org.
Besides joining Facebook to guard their children from Facebook users who might be dangerous, parents should take advantage of Facebook in helping children grow and learn about the world around them. He praises Facebook for teaching leadership, identity and relationship skills to children.
“To help kids reach their full potential, parents must know about Facebook,” Fogg said.
The Auburn Plainsman, the campus newspaper of Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., reported Auburn students have mixed reactions and emotions over their parents joining Facebook. Whether they welcome or oppose parents being on Facebook, they agree that finding parents on Facebook is “weird.”
Kyle Nixon, a political science major at Auburn, told the Plainsman he resisted becoming Facebook friends with his mother.
They ‘friended’ me a bunch of times and I said no a bunch of times and then they asked me about it,” Nixon said.
Kate Blackstone, a social work major at Auburn, is a little more open to the idea.
“I think it’s fair to be open to everybody, but it’s still kind of weird,” Blackstone said.