A new Canadian study finds that parental behavior on Facebook is very comparable to that of their children.
University of Guelph researchers discovered parents are just as likely as their kids to disclose personal information on the social networking website, which has more than 750 million active users worldwide.
“Facebook is not just a phenomenon among young people,” said Emily Christofides, who conducted the study with another doctoral student, Amy Muise, and psychology professor Dr. Serge Desmarais.
“The online environment influences people of all ages. Both parents and teens share and show more about themselves than they might in other social settings, and the same psychological factors underpin that behavior.”
The study involved 285 non-student adults between the ages of 19 and 71, and 288 youths ages nine to 18. While Facebook requires users to be 13 or older, about 7.5 million users are younger than 13.
The researchers found adolescents reveal more than older users, but only because they spend more time on Facebook, not because they care less about privacy. Teens spend on average 55 minutes a day on Facebook, compared to 38 minutes for adults.
In what may or may not be a surprise, the researchers discovered that adults were actually less conscious of the consequences of sharing personal information on Facebook.
For both groups, spending more time on the site made people more likely to share. Investigators discovered personal information was more likely to be disclosed by individuals who had less awareness of consequences and greater a desire to belong.
“Once again, the need for popularity was found to be a significant predictor of information disclosure,” Muise said, adding that information disclosure is the key factor in assessing one’s popularity.
Being on Facebook requires posting pictures and information and engaging in discussions. What others share and say about you is also a big part.
“The people who are the most popular are those whose online identity is actively participated in by others. So the more you share, the more others respond,” she said.
Popularity and disclosure become linked, the researchers say.
“Facebook is an environment that encourages people to share personal information,” Christofides said. “People with a high need for popularity may indeed care about their privacy, but they may not be willing to sacrifice their popularity by implementing privacy controls.”
Previous studies by the researchers found that the need for popularity drives young adults to disclose more personal information on Facebook and that site use fuels jealousy in relationships.
Desmarais believes it is important to research online networking sites because they are changing social relationships. “This is the new reality for some; aspects of their lives that were once private are now open for all to see.”
The findings are published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Source: University of Guelph