Monthly Archives: January 2015

Networked Empowerment on Facebook Groups among Parents of Children with Special Needs

In prior work, we examined how parents of children with special needs access support and experience judgment on social media sites. In this work, we describe how parents access health and education resources on Facebook to support their children’s needs. We conducted 43 interviews with parents of children with special needs to investigate whether using social media sites helps them to perform this caregiving work.

What is empowerment?
Empowerment describes a process in which people gain understanding and control over personal, social, economic, or political forces in order to take action to better their lives. When people face difficult situations, marginalized identities, or new environments where personal roles change, they can feel disempowered, no longer able to control their own outcomes. Living in a cycle of disempowerment can lead to learned helplessness, where future outcomes continue to suffer because individuals no longer believe they can control and change their future and thus, stop trying.

We find that parents experience three major stages:

    • going online after receiving a diagnosis

There’s a lot of medical terms that are thrown at us all the time… we just have to Google. Google these terms and what they mean and what things that it comes up with just to get an idea, because we don’t always know and the doctor sometimes just throw it all on us. -P15

You can search a website, you can Google things, you can glean or gather information on the web in millions of sites but to talk to someone that does it day-in-day-out, I think that probably the most informative and helpful way. And that’s what I found on Facebook… If I needed a question answered, I have a couple of friends that I know I’d be able to just type in their name, ask a question and be able to get a response in a pretty timely manner. -P16

    • learning about services from other parents

The whole art of handling kids is learning how to navigate hundreds of people in your life. So you have a social worker from the school who ends up being useless. You have a social worker from the ventilation clinic. You have a social worker from the ICU. You have a social worker from the Cardiac unit. You have the local county’s social worker. And then you have a social worker from hospice. They were all from different organizations, but they’re all trying to help give you resources. -P10

    • becoming advocates for the child’s needs

It’s mostly newly diagnosed people saying, “Hey, I just got this diagnosis and here’s a picture of my kid and I’m glad that I know that we’re not alone.” Fifty people say, “Welcome to the group. Welcome to the journey. Here’s some resources for you.” It’s a lot of that stuff. But also fundraising updates, research updates, conference updates, stuff like that. -P21

We explored a concept of networked empowerment that describes how parents whose children have received a special needs diagnosis find other parents, mobilize resources, and become advocates. Unlike with offline groups, parents are now able to do this through almost real-time access to other parents on Facebook. Through their process of adjusting to their child’s diagnosis, parents work to overcome the anxiety and uncertainty that follows a diagnosis, navigate the complex process of accessing services, and become advocates for their child’s needs as well as for the special needs cause more generally.

Future Work
While we find that parents turn to social media sites for mobilization and advocacy, there is little evidence that such efforts have resulted in change on a local or global scale. Future work should investigate the outcomes of long-term participation and advocacy on culture, policies, and rights in the U.S. today.

Limitations
Participants all were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

In our first round of interviewing, we oversampled mothers. The second round of interviewing targeted fathers. The interview protocols for this study are available: Parents Interview Protocol and Fathers Interview Protocol.

Ammari, T. and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Networked Empowerment on Facebook Groups for Parents of Children with Special Needs.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-23, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00074842.

How Parents Manage Disclosing Personal Information about their Children Online

Many researchers, educators, and policy makers have investigated the risks of children sharing their personal information online. However, little work has investigated the implications of parents sharing personal information about their children online. This study addresses that gap.

This study draws from 102 interviews with parents (64 fathers and 38 mothers) about their social network site (SNS) use as it relates to parenting. The questions we investigated were:

  1. Who posts content about children to social network sites and what do they post?
  2. How do parents negotiate what is appropriate to post?
  3. In what ways do the affordances of social network sites affect how and what parents decide to post?

Findings

  • In general, mothers take on the responsibility of sharing content about their children more than fathers do
  • Fathers are more restrictive about sharing to broad and professional audiences
  • Fathers are concerned about sharing content that could be perceived as sexually suggestive, especially related to daughters
  • Both mothers and fathers use features of SNSs to limit oversharing
  • Parents have to negotiate with each other what is okay or not okay to post online about their child, sometimes leading to tensions
  • Parents have to manage extended family and friends posting online about their child, which can be especially challenging if the parents themselves don’t agree on what is okay to post

Parental Disclosure Management
Building on prior work, we introduce the concept of parental disclosure management, which describes how parents decide what to share about their children online. Parents work especially hard to manage suggestive or appropriate content and evaluate potential audiences (e.g., what other might think of what they post online).

A Third Shift
In general, both mothers and fathers in our sample said that mothers did the majority of disclosure management work, which included deciding what to share, negotiating sharing policies with partners, and posting content online. We describe an emerging third shift of work (following on Hoschchild’s “Second Shift”) that highlights the additional work parents take on to manage children’s identities online. Our results suggest that many parents manage the work of sharing information about their children online by assigning de facto roles to one parent. Participants were always able to articulate who did the sharing and what kinds of sharing they did, though the roles tended to emerge organically. In the same way that one parent often does the cooking or the dishes, one parent seems to take on the primary responsibility of sharing about children online. Women often held this responsibility, perhaps because they are more active SNS users, or perhaps because their roles as primary caregiver are extended into these online spaces.

Future Directions
As online and offline family life becomes increasingly intertwined, understanding how parents negotiate roles is critical for the wellbeing of families and for designing the next generation of social platforms to support family life. We conclude with theoretical and practical implications for designing SNSs to better support family life online, including:

  • Joint accounts SNSs could create joint sharing features that allow one or more users to create an account and share responsibility of it. Such an account would allow parents to jointly control privacy settings and manage content.
  • Silent tagging Parents could engage in “silent tagging” practices so that profiles and content are stored for later use, if a child decides she wants her identity to be attached to this content.
  • Retroactive identity management Children could be given the opportunity to more easily and powerfully alter their online presence, after it has been established by their parents.

Data Sources

  • Interviews with 102 parents drawn from a convenience sample recruited across multiple studies
  • Interviewers conducted from early 2013 through early 2014

Limitations
This study’s sample contained only parents who were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

The interview protocols for this study are available: Interview Protocol 1, Interview Protocol 2, and Interview Protocol 3.

Ammari, T., Kumar, P., Lampe, C., and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Managing Children’s Online Identities: How Parents Decide what to Disclose about their Children Online.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-32, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00080547 and HUM00074842.

Supporting Fathers and Fatherhood on Social Media Sites

A lot of academic research, especially in computing fields, has focused on mothers and motherhood recently. However, little research has explored how fathers use social media related to fatherhood. This study addresses that gap. We interviewed 37 fathers about their use of social media as it relates to their roles as fathers.

Drawing on prior work on the social construction of fatherhood and determinants of involved fathers, we find that fathers use social media to:

  • document and archive fatherhood
  • learn how to be a father
  • access social support

They also go online to support diverse and sometimes stigmatized needs, including

  • single fathers’ use of Reddit where they can be anonymous instead of Facebook where going through a divorce might be stigmatized
  • fathers raised by single mothers’ search for role models online because they did not feel like they had such role models growing up
  • stay-at-home fathers’ use of father blogs to find other like-minded fathers because they felt isolated, and sometimes even unwelcome, if surrounded by mostly stay-at-home-mothers

Advocating for Fathers
We argue that we are at a critical juncture for studying and promoting fatherhood. Fathers’ roles have steadily evolved over time from moral mentor and breadwinner to caregiver and emotional supporter. Though still imbalanced with mothers, fathers take on more childcare and household responsibilities than they used to. Problematically, the focus on mothers and motherhood in academic research could inadvertently perpetuate the unequal focus on mothers as primary caregivers—undercutting some of the very premises motherhood research is looking to address.

Judgment and Stigma
Fathers were sensitive about sharing too much information online that might violate their children’s privacy. They were also hesitant to post information that might subject them to stigma and judgment from other parents, including topics like sleep training and vaccines. Fathers were especially sensitive about sharing information about their young children online. They engaged in protective behaviors like searching for their child’s name on Google to see if pictures of their child might come up.

Future Steps
We consider some ideas about how online platforms might be designed to better support fathers:

  • Provide more online sites and communities to that support fathers engaging in fatherhood discussions and activities (akin to the many sites for mothers already available)
  • Support anonymity or pseudonymity in online father communities to create a safe space for sharing about fatherhood online (as well as support small groups of trusted fathers on sites like Facebook)
  • Increase visibility of audience norms and expectations so that fathers can post parenting content to targeted audiences

Data Sources

  • Interviews with 37 fathers recruited through father mailing lists, father offline groups, father online groups, Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist
  • The sample is a convenience sample
  • Interviews were conducted from October 2013-February 2014

Limitations
This study’s sample contained only fathers. Furthermore, participants all were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

The interview protocol for this study is available: Interview Protocol.

Ammari, T. and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Understanding and Supporting Fathers and Fatherhood on Social Media Sites.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-23, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00080547.