Many dire warnings have been sounded about kids using social media, particularly because teenage-sized wisdom tends to mix dangerously with Facebook-sized measures of public display. But a new study suggests that it’s not just kids who overshare online. Grown-ups and parents are doing it too.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada say that adults are just as careless as kids are with their private information and just as willing to do whatever it takes to be popular on Facebook.
“Both parents and teens share and show more about themselves than they might in other social settings,” said psychology professor Serge Desmarais, who conducted the study with Ph.D. students Amy Muise and Emily Christofides. “And the same psychological factors underpin that behavior.”
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While it’s true that teens — along with the estimated 7.5 million users who are younger than Facebook’s required age of 13 — reveal more information online than older users, that’s only because they spend more time on the Internet. The 288 study participants who were younger than 19 spent an average of 55 minutes a day on Facebook; the 285 participants aged 19 to 71 spent an average of 38 minutes a day on the site.
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The two main predictors of revealing too much information on the social-networking site were the length of time people spent on it and their desire for popularity, both of which fed off each other, the study found. Adults may not be on Facebook for as long as teens are, but the study suggests they have just as much desire to get their posts “liked” by others or to draw comments. “People with a high need for popularity may indeed care about their privacy,” said Christofides, “but they may not be willing to sacrifice their popularity by implementing privacy controls.”
Surprisingly, the study also found that that grown-ups are actually less conscious than teens of the perils of revealing too much. All of which means the next time you log on to your Facebook account, you may want to avert your eyes from what your parents are saying.