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Should Grandparents Join Facebook?

Youngsters Abandon Traditional Communication for Social Networking


Granddaughter teaching her grandmother to use a tablet
Kondoros Éva Katalin /Vetta/Getty Images

Maybe you've heard the statistic: Grandparents outnumber high school students on Facebook. Should you take the leap and join Facebook? Here are some factors to consider.

Does Facebook Have Staying Power?

Since grandparents have been around a while and have seen many hot trends cool off, some may worry that they are going to give up their tried-and-true methods of communication for something that's not going to be around for long. Even though some young people have moved on to other social networks, Facebook is not about to disappear. According to the Pew Research Institute, 67% of online adults are on Facebook. People are likely to add additional networking sites, as we've seen with females and Pinterest, but are unlikely to abandon a site that most of their friends belong to. When wholesale migration does take place, it's going to be to a different site, not to an outdated method such as email. And grandparents will have to move with the crowd or risk being out of touch.

If It's Not Broken ...

Some grandparents adhere to the old motto, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." But the truth is that the old methods are broken, as least as far as young family members are concerned. Email, for example, is far out of favor with the younger set. Send an email to a grandchild, and it may never get opened. Send a private message on Facebook, however, and the recipient will be alerted the next time he or she logs on.

The transient nature of email accounts is also a problem. Research shows that the average person has three email accounts, and almost one-third of email users change their email addresses each year. Increasingly, people use their email accounts to receive offers from merchants and for work communications, almost never for social interaction.

On the subject of old-fashioned communication, why not just pick up the phone? Because many people have stopped answering their phones, preferring to communicate by text. There are some sound reasons for the change: Text messages can be viewed and answered more discreetly. Ringing cell phones are rightly considered inappropriate in many settings.

Some grandparents, however, don't have the phones or the plans that allow for texting, and many grandparents confess that, unlike their fleet-fingered grandchildren, they find texting difficult. Facebook's chat/messaging features work similarly to texting for those grandparents who are more comfortable on their computers than on mobile devices.

In the early days of computer connectedness, family websites were popular. Today, many family websites are rarely visited because Facebook offers most of the same services for free that the websites charge for. The family websites do have one significant advantage that's important to some: privacy. No one can visit unless invited. But with half of active users logging on every days, Facebook users are likely to get the immediate responses and feedback that most of us crave. And that's no longer true of private family websites.

Next page: The Disadvantages of Facebook

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