Befriending a grownup on social media not a bad choice

New York, June 22 (IANS) Ever received a friend request from your mother, father or math teacher? It may sound weird, but adding adults, from teachers to parents, to a teenager’s social media can fundamentally shift his or her online behaviour, a new study says.

“Interactions between adults and teenagers, can be opportunities to model appropriate social media behaviour or for teenagers to build beneficial connections with people who are different from themselves,” said lead author Andrea Forte, Assistant Professor at Drexel University in the US.

The presence of adults also leads teenagers’ to think before they post.

Learning this sort of self-censoring behaviour at a young age could, be just as important as creating better privacy management tools, the researchers said.

Further, establishing healthy relationships with adults on social media can help teenagers understand where the boundary for appropriate interaction lies.

Many of the students consider this to be an awkward melding of social circles, calling interactions with “big brother” “creepy” and “embarrassing.”

However, they recognise the presence of adult authorities in their social media as a sign of caring and compassion.

“When family, friends, teachers, romantic interests and coworkers mix and mingle, the result is social awkwardness,” Forte added.

In addition, this uncomfortable mix can also give rise to a level of access to information that might not be achievable within the familiar confines of a tight circle of friends.

“Weak ties are often connections to people who are less like you and who can provide access to diverse kinds of information and resources,” Forte noted adding, “in other words, being connected to others who are very similar to yourself can throttle information flow.”

Schools need to take a closer look at their social media policies and allow for positive interactions between teachers, administrators and their students, the researchers suggested.

The findings are based on surveys and interviews of students in two public high schools in the US — one with a policy that strictly limits social media interaction between teachers and students and one that with a policy that is more leniently enforced and social media interaction is publicly embraced.

The study will be published in the proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Supporting Group Work (GROUP).



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