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Family Communication in the Age of Digital and Social Media

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Edited By Carol J. Bruess

Family Communication in the Age of Digital and Social Media is an innovative collection of contemporary data-driven research and theorizing about how digital and social media are affecting and changing nearly every aspect of family interaction over the lifespan. The research and thinking featured in the book reflects the intense growth of interest in families in the digital age. Chapters explore communication among couples, families, parents, adolescents, and emerging adults as their realities are created, impacted, changed, structured, improved, influenced and/or inhibited by cell phones, smartphones, personal desktop and laptop computers, MP3 players, e-tablets, e-readers, email, Facebook, photo sharing, Skype, Twitter, SnapChat, blogs, Instagram, and other emerging technologies. Each chapter significantly advances thinking about how digital media have become deeply embedded in the lives of families and couples, as well as how they are affecting the very ways we as twenty-first-century communicators see ourselves and, by extension, conceive of and behave in our most intimate and longest-lasting relationships.
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18. Parental Uncertainty and Information Seeking on Facebook

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← 382 | 383 → Parental Uncertainty and Information Seeking on Facebook

LIESEL L. SHARABIDAVID J. ROACHÉKIMBERLY B. PUSATERI

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction

The impact of mediated communication on interpersonal relationships has been well documented (for review, see Walther, 2011). However, the pervasive role of mediated communication—social network sites (SNSs) in particular—in family communication has received scant attention. In fact, only recently have scholars begun to unpack the ways families communicate and relate through SNSs. Of those with Internet access, more than two thirds of middle-aged adults (ages 30–49) and young adults (ages 18–29) use SNSs (Duggan & Smith, 2013). This suggests that a large number of parents and their college-aged children are on Facebook and are “friends” with each other (e.g., Child & Westermann, 2013; Kanter, Afifi, & Robbins, 2012).

This chapter explores, through the lens of uncertainty reduction theory (URT; Berger & Calabrese, 1975), how, if at all, parents use Facebook to obtain information about their child’s life at college. Originally applied to initial interactions, URT has since been applied to SNSs (e.g., Antheunis, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2010) and long-distance relationships (LDRs; Maguire, 2007). SNSs are effective information-seeking channels (Westerman, Van Der Heide, Klein, & Walther, 2008), and Facebook has even become a socially acceptable way to monitor romantic partners (Utz & Beukeboom, 2011). However, it is not yet known ← 383 | 384 → if parents take advantage of Facebook’s affordances to reduce...

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