Arts & Letters
M.A. Lifespan & Digital Communication
This proposed study aims to examine the phenomena of parents who preemptively create and manage social media accounts for their young children who are not yet able to use or manage these accounts themselves. According to a nationwide survey conducted by Gerber.com of more than 1,000 moms with kids under two, “close to 40 percent of moms aged 18 to 34 created social media accounts for their baby before the child’s first birthday, and another 7 percent made one before their child’s second birthday” (Dubin, 2016). The reasons and motivations cited by parents may vary, from wanting to create a personal identity separate from their children, to wanting to reserve a social media handle for their child’s name (Shea, 2016). This proposal examines the communicative, cultural, and social contexts that may lead parents to this decision, while acknowledging the benefits and risks associated with families’ use of social media. It reviews literature on the management of children’s online identities, parental control, children’s privacy rights and public autonomy, and permission issues. Utilizing the communication privacy management theory, it considers possible tensions that may arise between parents and children as an intergenerational dynamic when disclosing personal information online. It then proposes a longitudinal study to determine the long-term effects on the parent-child relationship, and especially on the children who will have grown up with a public online accounting of their life from a very young age. As social media’s aptitude as a culture-shifting communication tool continues to expand, so does its potential for intergenerational impact on parents and their children. As its use becomes more common among all stages of the lifespan, it will become vital to policy makers and web developers to understand the long-term impact of these early-aged accounts.
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Smith, Rae, "Parent-Managed Social Media Profiles for Children" (2019). College of Arts and Letters Posters. 10.