Facebook Turns Parents Into Teenagers, Study Says

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A miniskirt and fishnet stockings on a 50-year-old woman do not make her look young. They make her look like a 50-year-old woman trying to look young.

And ask any teenager: There is nothing grosser than grown-ups who don't act their age. This is true whether it's your mother wearing fishnets, your father wearing hair plugs or either one of them trying to act "cool" on Facebook.

But midlife is like adolescence. It's a time to act to stupid.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada learned that much when studying how parents conduct themselves on Facebook. Their findings, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggest there is something about social media that turns fortysomethings into blithering idiots.

They are as likely as teenagers to divulge sensitive personal information and exhibit an insane obsession with popularity.

"Facebook is not just a phenomenon among young people," Emily Christofides, who conducted the study with Amy Muise and Serge Desmarais, tells ScienceDaily. "The online environment influences people of all ages. Both parents and teens share and show more about themselves than they might in other social settings, and the same psychological factors underpin that behavior."

Researchers found adolescents reveal more than their parents, but only because they spend more time on Facebook. Teens spend, on average, 55 minutes a day on Facebook, while adults spend about 38 minutes.

Adults were actually less conscious of the consequences of sharing personal information on Facebook, Christofides tells ScienceDaily. Indiscretion was predominantly the result of wanting to be popular and not thinking through the consequences of sharing certain pictures from band camp or the office Christmas party.

"Once again, the need for popularity was found to be a significant predictor of information disclosure," Muise tells the website. "The people who are the most popular are those whose online identity is actively participated in by others. So the more you share, the more others respond."

It's easy to get sucked in.

"Facebook is an environment that encourages people to share personal information," Christofides tells ScienceDaily. "People with a high need for popularity may indeed care about their privacy, but they may not be willing to sacrifice their popularity by implementing privacy controls."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.