Adding Grandma to Your Friends List

The world is forever coming up with new and more technologically advanced ways of taking up a teenager’s time, meaning that family connections can suffer as a result. According to Facebook statistics, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook, and you can be fairly certain your teens are doing their bit! For many parents, it’s already a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and the 40-55 year old demographic is one of the fastest growing on Facebook (in fact some teens now call it MomBook). But, what about Grandma. Surprisingly, there’s another growing demographic, the over 55s and they’re discovering a whole new world of media sharing and social networking unlike anything they’ve experienced before.

Getting the kids and grandparents on the same page.

Having not grown up amongst this sort of technology, some older people might be understandably reluctant to leap into something as foreign as Facebook. But, with a little encouragement and guidance, your parents may find it a wonderful way to re-connect with their teenage grandchildren.

What is Facebook?

For those who are already regular Facebook users it’s easy to take it for granted that everyone knows what it is. But for the uninitiated – possibly your parents – it may need a little introduction to make them feel comfortable about getting involved. You can simply explain that Facebook, or social networking, is used by people of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities, interests and motivations to connect with family, friends, business associates or people with similar interests.

You can then demonstrate how easy it is to sign up, by following the simple prompts from the Facebook homepage and offering tips along the way to make the experience as simple, safe and enjoyable as possible.

A word of warning

Being possibly unfamiliar with the world of cyberspace and the perils that await the uninitiated, it would be wise to ensure your folks’ privacy is properly protected.

Make sure Grandma’s computer has adequate virus protection with up to date anti-virus software, as Facebook can leave her exposed to nasty viruses.
As Facebook has been involved in some sticky privacy issues, once Grandma’s Facebook account has been created, head to Account Settings (top right of profile page) and navigate to privacy settings. Change all of the answers to ‘friends only’ and disable “Place” settings as not doing so could see her sharing personal information with more than just friends and family.

Similarly, it would be wise to warn her to keep her email address, location and date of birth private and remind her that all information, comments, photos can be accessed by everyone on her friends list.

Let the fun begin

Simply by signing up to Facebook a grandparent has sent a clear message to their teenage grandchilden saying ‘see I’m not so hard to contact after all’. They’ve demonstrated that they’re willing and able to communicate and connect with them using media the kids are comfortable with.

Conversely, encourage your kids to send a friend request to your mom or dad to show them how simple the process is. The kids win as they add another digit to their all important friends tally while Grandma or Grandpa immediately feel welcome. Similarly, there may be some of your friends or relatives who’d be interested in speaking with them too, the more a part of the community they feel, the more likely it is they’ll get involved.

With the connection now established both grandchild and grandparent get a greater insight into each other’s daily lives, interests and relationships through reading status updates and witnessing their interactions with others. They also have a new way of communicating using Facebook’s easily accessible Messages function which provides an opportunity to share feelings and ideas that may be too awkward to tackle in traditional family forums.

Facebook is particularly useful in fostering relationships between grandparent and grandchild where distance or other factors make visits rare or impossible and where long distance phone calls are prohibitively expensive.

They’re not alone

Research by iStrategyLabs in 2009 showed that the number of users aged over 55 blew out from under one million to nearly six million in just six months, with numbers continuing to grow since then. So once Grandma or Grandpa dip their toes into the Facebook pool, they may just discover a myriad of long lost friends, former work colleagues, past flames and distant relatives waiting to rekindle friendships.

There’s also the opportunity to connect with those who share their interests and hobbies, but be sure to warn them not to accept just anyone’s friend request to avoid marketing types or those with less than friendly intentions. But if Grandma or Grandpa are ever unsure of what to do in cyberspace, they’ve always got an on-hand expert to ask in their ‘friend’, your child.

Worth the effort

While the prospect is possibly a little daunting at first, getting Grandma or Grandpa onto and into Facebook is well worth the effort. It gives grandparents a glimpse into the world in which their grandchildren are immersed; allows the two to share their goings-on and most importantly opens up a new avenue of communication and connection which may otherwise be limited.

Susan Long is a social media addict, mother and daughter, when she has a moment to spare, she works on wonderful, family friendly projects like this Cool Pencil Case site.

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