The Changing Power of Parents

On: September 27, 2010
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About Elias van Hees
Elias van Hees is currently a MA student of New Media, he studied at the University of Rotterdam and received his Bachelor Degree in Information Technology and Communication (2009). Elias is a self-employed web strategist, more information is available on www.eliasvanhees.nl. Interests: social media, research, politics, music, webdevelopment, seo, branding, concepting, user experience and usability.

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About the tension between self-profiling by teenagers and parental control

Being present on a social network once was a way to escape parents’ attention. For many teens, home is a highly regulated space with rules and norms that are strictly controlled by adults. The internet is less regulated by social norms. Teenagers face a challenging dilemma on social networking sites. How can they be simultaneously cool to their friends and acceptable to their parents at the same time? Danah Boyd states:

“The power that adults hold over youth explains more than just complications in identity performance; it is the root of why teenagers are on MySpace in the first place.”

Publics play a major role in the development of individuals for, as Nancy Fraser explains, “they are arenas for the formation and enactment of social identities.” Parents are probably the most powerful and influential force that youth can in fact face. It’s no longer the question whether teens in the EU have internet access or not, for example The Netherlands have the highest broadband penetration in the European Union. Hyves, the ‘Dutch Facebook’ has in fact 9 million users and i wonder how the Dutch teenagers nowadays deal with parental control compared to the year of Danah Boyd’s research (2007). How far does Dutch youth go in contemporary online culture and do parents adapt to that at this time already? Did parents actually found a way to regulate teens behavior in this new space; which is becoming less new day by day. Or did teens, find out new things to hide personal content from their parents?

In the last few years a social networking site like ‘Hyves’ exponentially increased, also by the registering of adults (read parents). Right now the growth is less significant but that does not change the fact that a lot of parents actually signed up and joined their children in this ‘new’ paradigme. Are the children right now in an era where they are able to controll there parents as well and keep an eye out for them? Are there any stories about children who actually discover anything online about their parents that they would not have seen in real life? If that’s the case power has changed rapidly, instead of parents controlling their children and consequences it now works in both directions. Children became familiar with social networking sites during the years, so they found their way. Parents, on the other hand, are not that familiar and therefore more vulnerable online than their children. They maybe don’t know how to protect their profiles from search engines and handle privacy issues or send messages private instead of posting on the wall. In comparison: most children do know how to find their way online and to erase traces so that a parent will not find out about it.

Michel Foucault said:

“To understand what power relations are about, perhaps we should investigate the forms of resistance and attempts made to dissociate these relations” (p. 208)

Is the attempt from parents to join their children in the social community online – in order to control them – resulting in a totally different outcome in which children are empowered than controlled?

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