Do you remember when Facebook was only something teenagers and people under twenty-five knew about? Today your parents, boss, teachers, high school friends you haven’t seen in twenty years, people you have only met once, and many others can call themselves your Facebook friend. Sometimes it seems as if there isn’t an age group or group of people who aren’t connected in this way,
Well don’t look now but Grandma and Grandpa have discovered Facebook. It was recently discovered that one in five people over sixty in England have an online presence in order to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren with the same percentage or higher involved in the US.
The research also found that many of them are shocked by what they find on those Facebook walls. The amount of drunken photos, foul language, and overload of personal information is enough to add a grey hair or two. And If your grandparents are like mine (most of them are) this usually results in a lecture using Facebook messages about what is or isn’t appropriate. Having them as a Facebook friend also gives the opportunity to ask questions that you definitely don’t want to answer (have you gained weight?, why aren’t you married yet?, did you do what I told you to?, why not?)
This and other issues in the Facebooking grandparents relationship has caused children or grandkids to limit their privacy settings so posts cannot be seen or even blocking Nanna and Pop. Some encourage their grandmother or grandfather to use a similar website called called grey path because it allowed seniors to communicate with one another online in an easier to understand format and explains some of the more complex matters of social media while at the same time eliminating any embarrassing conversations on your Facebook page.
While social media definitely complicates our relationships with grandparents and can lead to frustration we must understand that online nagging isn’t their goal. They get a Facebook profile in order to see pictures of their children and grandchildren, know whats going on in their lives, and maybe send a quick message every once in a while. Being a part of our lives is extremely important to them, particularly those who live in assisted living facilities.
So what should cyber grandparenting look like? Put up lots of pictures along with personal updates about your day and encourage them to use Facebook as a window into your life. If you have some old pictures of them with you as a child or teen upload those and tag them so the next time they can enjoy the memory. Volunteer to help them understand how to do things like upload a picture or share something on their wall. As you do this and more Gran and Pop will realise they are still a part of your life, and thats all they wanted in the first place.