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All for your own good |
One mother in Shanghai isn't about to quit giving advice, which she believes is her inherent right as a parent. "It's our duty to educate our children and it's better to give them something than to just stay silent. I think they may learn something if we persist."
Dads are also notorious WeChat spammers, say their children. A father surnamed Sun sends his daughter nine inspirational messages every day, which only succeeded in eliciting the young woman's scorn.
"I don't see anything bad in these articles. They are just transferring positive energy," said Sun, obviously feeling more than a little hurt.
Yaya and her parents have established a kind of online truce. She used to get multiple health-related articles every day. Like a good daughter she calls her mom and dad on an actual phone once a week and occasionally talks to them on WeChat. She has told her mom and dad outright that she doesn't appreciate their online nagging about her lifestyle and their assumption she's not taking care of herself.
Now, instead of sending messages directly to her, Yaya's parents post the articles to the public part of their WeChat account. It's easier for Yaya to ignore them, but she still feels like the posts are preachy, condescending, and aimed at lecturing her.
Professor Wu Weihua, a social media expert at the Communication University of China, has found that older parents and their adult children are attracted to very different online topics. "Those posts that are hated by young people are quite popular among their parents. Scientists call it selective acceptance, and once something is believed to be true, it will quickly spread to their circle of friends."
Fangfang, mother of an adult daughter, argues that those who claim older people lack judgment online are arrogant or even ageist. Mastering the use of the technology is far from rocket science, she said, arguing parents have lived long enough to see through cons and bad advice.
Fangfang said many parents are only trying to pass on long-held cultural beliefs and knowledge about maintaining good health. "For generations we've believed that certain foods should or should not be eaten during one season or another. Parents are sharing this knowledge to demonstrate their love and concern. We can't just ignore them because they're adults. That's very much part of our parenting culture too."
Parents' remembrance of their own youth also plays a role in their heightened sense of worry about today's youth. They believe young ones face more slippery slopes toward poor health practices than they did back in their day. Many parents also recall the hardships and loneliness they had to deal with when family greetings traveled by snail mail only, or when a phone call home was a rare event.
Chinese parents have a reputation for being over protective but they feel social media allows them to continue to play a loving role in their children's lives. The children, on the other hand, resent their parents meddling and worrying about what they are learning from the Internet. Where one generation sees social media as an open door, the other feels it's the cage they thought they had finally fled.