GenY begrudgingly share tech with Adults

GenY begrudgingly share tech with Adults

Associated Press

CHICAGO – Scott Seigal was awakened one recent early morning by a cell phone text message. It was from his girlfriend’s mother.

His friends’ parents have posted greetings on his MySpace page for all
the world to see. And his 72-year-old grandmother sends him online
instant messages every day so they can better stay in touch while he’s
at college.

"It’s nice that adults know SOME things," says Seigal, an 18-year-old
freshman at Binghamton University in New York. He especially likes
IMing with his grandma because he’s "not a huge talker on the phone."

Increasingly, however, he and other young people are feeling
uncomfortable about their elders encroaching on what many young adults
and teens consider their technological turf.

Long gone are the days when the average, middle-aged adult did well to
simply work a computer. Now those same adults have Gmail, upload videos
on YouTube, and sport the latest high-tech gadgets.

Young people have responded, as they always have, by searching out the
latest way to stay ahead in the race for technological know-how and
cool. They use Twitter, which allows blogging from one’s mobile phone
or BlackBerry, or, a site where they can download videos and TV programs.

They customize their cell phones with various faceplates and ringtones.
And, sometimes, they find ways to exclude adults – using high-frequency
ringtones that teens can hear but most adults can’t, for instance.


Nowhere are the technological
turf wars more apparent than on social networking sites, such as
MySpace and Facebook, which went from being student-oriented to
allowing adults outside the college ranks to join.

Gary Rudman, a
California-based youth market researcher, has heard the complaints. He
regularly interviews young people who think it’s "creepy" when an older
person – we’re talking someone they know – asks to join their social
network as a "friend." It means, among other things, that they can view
each others’ profiles and what they and their friends post.

"It would be like a 40-year-old attending the prom or a frat party," Rudman says. "It just doesn’t work."

It’s a particular quandary for image-conscious teens, says Eric Kuhn, a
junior at Hamilton College in upstate New York, who’s blogged about the
etiquette of social networking.

He accepted his mom’s invitation to be Facebook friends and has, in
turn, become online friends with other adults she knows. But so far, he
says, his 16-year-old sister has declined to add their mom "because she
thinks it is not cool."

Lakeshia Poole, a 24-year-old from Atlanta, says "my Facebook self has
become a watered down version of me." Worried about older adults
snooping around, she’s now more careful about what she posts and has
also made her profile private, so only her online friends can see it.

"It’s somewhat a Catch-22, because now I’m hidden from the people I would really like to connect with," she says.

Lauren Auster-Gussman, a freshman at Juniata College in Pennsylvania,
says it’s particularly awkward when one of her parents’ friends asks to
join her social network. She thinks Facebook should only be used by
people younger than, say, 40.

"I mean, I’m in college," she says. "There are bound to be at least a
few drunken pictures of me on Facebook, and I don’t need my parents’
friends seeing them."

There are ways around the problem.

It’s possible on some sites, for instance, to limit what someone can
see on your profile, though some users think it’s a pain to have to
deal with that.

"That is the beauty of Facebook and other online social networks. If
you want to only interact with your peers, then you can adjust the
settings to only allow that," says Katie Jones, a senior at Ohio
Wesleyan University, who’s studied ways prospective students use
Facebook to contact students at colleges and universities they’re
interested in attending.

It’s also possible to simply decline or ignore an adult’s request to be
an online friend. Or adults could back off and only use social
networking to contact their own peers.

But it’s not always so easy to relinquish that control, especially for
parents of teens, says Kathryn Montgomery, the author of "Generation
Digital: Politics, Commerce and Childhood in the Age of the Internet"
and mother of a 14-year-old.

"As parents, we have to figure out where to draw the line between
encouraging and allowing our teens to have autonomy, to experience
their separate culture, and when we need to monitor their use of
media," says Montgomery, a professor of communication at American

She says it’s especially important to help young people understand that
social networking is often more public than they think. Sometimes
monitoring them is the best way to do that.

Sue Frownfelter, a 46-year-old mom in Flint, Mich., thinks it’s less of
an issue for parents who discover technology with – or even before –
their children. Among other things, she has a blog, uses Twitter and
has a Chumby, a personal Internet device that displays anything from
news and weather to photos and eBay auctions.

Her children, ages 9 and 11, begged her to allow them to have a MySpace page, because she does. Instead, she suggested, a social networking site for kids that allows parental monitoring.

"I can’t imagine my life without technology! It has truly become an
extension of who I am and who my family will likely be," says
Frownfelter, who works at a community college.

Still, in today’s world, parents are finding that the urge to stake out technological turf is starting at a very young age.

Jennifer Abelson, a mom in New York, says her 2-year-old daughter asks
every day if she can play on the "’puter" on such kid-oriented sites as and

"She’s constantly telling us ‘I will do it!’ and ‘Go away!’ if we try to interfere with her ‘working,"’ Abelson says.

"It’s pretty amazing to see technology ingrained at such a young age.
But I know she’s learned so much from being able to use technology on
her own."

Leave a Reply

RSS Daily Search Trends