A grand challenge: Social media monitoring, concerns, and authority in grandfamilies

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Watkins, Hannah
Bertapelle, Jessica

As of 2010, an estimated 7.5 million children live in a household maintained by a grandparent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), indicating a social phenomenon that transcends socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or cultural differences. While some grandparents acknowledge that there are benefits to raising their grandchildren, literature suggests there are many challenges for these family units. Currently, no known research examines how grandfamilies, or families in which the grandparent takes on the primary caregiver role, navigate social media use. Although not yet studied, it is possible that grandparents raising their grandchildren will have more difficulty monitoring social media use than traditional families due to the digital divide, or the age inequality opened by the development of digital means of communications (McQuail, 2005). By using dyadic interviews, this exploratory study addresses social media monitoring strategies, concerns about social media, and navigating expertise in grandfamilies. The interview questions, grounded in mediation theory, focus on mediation practices, common social media concerns, and navigating authority. The grounded theory approach was used to thematically analyze the data. Through this process, several themes were found in the grandparent interviews, including similar monitoring strategies, caregiver concerns, and navigation about authority. Themes in grandchild data included similar strategies in content management and feelings of superior understanding of social media.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The Elliott School of Communication