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When parents crawl the Web

By Tiffany Tan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-15 07:34

 When parents crawl the Web
Many parents engage their children on social networking sites, sometimes creating friction.Provided to China Daily

How mothers and fathers engage their children through online social networks affects and reflects their offline connections. Tiffany Tan examines the crossroads where the Internet's interlacing of familial ties goes social.

Last October, Wu Donghuang approved his father's request to become "friends" on the online social network WeChat. Three months later, he blocked his dad's access to his status updates and photos - allowing them to only exchange text and voice messages.

Wu initially considered their social media interactions to be nothing more than an alternative to their long-distance phone calls. But his father soon wanted to know the reason behind every post where the 23-year-old talked about feeling down, upset or confused.

"I don't want my parents to know every little thing I feel," Wu, who works in logistics for a State-owned company in Guangzhou, says.

"I prefer to share only the good news with my family and keep the bad news to myself."

Wu says he "felt so happy and relieved" after blacklisting his father on WeChat.

According to psychologists and social media researchers, the type of relationship a parent and his offspring have online actually reflects the quality of their overall relationship.

In a country where traditional culture emphasizes parents' ascendance over their children, and where the young are taught to stay silent in the presence of their elders, the casualness and openness of social media exchanges can be unsettling to some Chinese families.

"Parents who strongly believe in the importance of family hierarchy and later 'friend' their children on social networking sites will make their kids feel uneasy or will encounter resistance," says Zhang Zhongshan, a senior teacher at the Songjiang Teachers' Training College in Shanghai, who studies new media's impact on families.

"The parents themselves will feel out of sorts and conflicted about these sites," he says.

Trust and respect are crucial in creating healthy parent-child relationships on social media, experts say.

When parents crawl the Web

When parents crawl the Web

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