NEW YORK — Women of the baby boomer generation often say they started using Facebook because family members — in particular their daughters — convinced them to join the social networking site, a new study suggests.
A growing number of boomers are turning to social media sites — a 2010 Pew research study found about 50 percent of U.S. adults ages 50 to 65 who use the internet say they are a member of a social networking site. But few studies have examined why they join.
In the new study, researchers interviewed 28 women over age 50 who used computers, social networking sites or the online calling service Skype. Most participants were baby boomers, but a few were older, in their 80s or 90s.
About three quarters of the women were on Facebook, and 86 percent of those women said they joined because of family members, with 48 percent specifically mentioning their daughters, according to the study presented here Saturday (Aug. 10) at the American Sociological Association meeting.
"My daughter told me I needed to get on Facebook," and "That's the way I get to see their pictures," were common answers the women gave to the question of why they joined the site, said study researcher Nancy Horak Randall, a professor of sociology at Wingate University in North Carolina.
Randall said many women of the baby boomer generation learned to use computers at work, (in the new study, 71 percent said they learned how to use a computer at work), but employers aren't likely to teach employees how to use Facebook. That's where family (including daughters) come in.
After so many years of learning from their mothers, adult daughters may look for ways to give back, Randall said. [See Top 10 Golden Rules of Facebook]
"Much like mothers have, in the past, taught daughters to tie their shoes … now the daughters have a skill," Randall told LiveScience.
Many women feel they have a responsibility to maintain family ties. So moms may see Facebook as a way to keep up with their children, nieces and nephews, their children's friends and others, Randall said.
Randall would like to conduct a study to see why fathers join social networking sites, and why some baby boomers abstain from social networking sites.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.