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While teenagers are notorious for posting personal information on the internet, a new study reveals that parents are guilty of over-sharing as well.University of Guelph researchers found that parents are just as likely as their kids to disclose personal information on Facebook.  Furthermore, mom and dad are just as susceptible to the need for internet popularity.

“Facebook is not just a phenomenon among young people,” said Emily Christofides, a PhD psychology student who was involved with the study.

“The online environment influences people of all ages. Both parents and teens share and show more about themselves than they might in other social settings, and the same psychological factors underpin that behaviour.”

The study involved 285 adults between the ages of 19 and 71, and 288 youths ages nine to 18.  While the results indicated that adolescents do reveal more than older users, it isn’t because they care less about privacy – it’s just because they spend more time on the site.

On average, teenagers spend 55 minutes a day on Facebook, compared to 38 minutes for adults.

In fact, the researchers say that adults were actually less conscious of the consequences of sharing personal information on Facebook.  For both teens and adults, spending more time on the site made people more likely to share.

Rather than age, it was the combination of less awareness of consequences and greater desire to belong that predicted more disclosure of personal information.

“Facebook is an environment that encourages people to share personal information,” Christofides said. “People with a high need for popularity may indeed care about their privacy, but they may not be willing to sacrifice their popularity by implementing privacy controls.”

“This is the new reality for some,” agreed Christofides’ fellow researcher, psychology professor Serge Desmarais. “Aspects of people’s lives that were once private are now open for all to see.”

The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.