Family networks



by Xu Lin
BEIJING, Sept. 15 — Social media are changing China’s parent-child dynamics both online and offline, enticing some children to resort to cloak-and-dagger measures to protect their privacy. Xu Lin reports.
Lin Zhishan’s greatest joy is browsing her son’s micro blog – without his knowledge. Her 24-year-old son, who’s studying in Japan, has no inkling his mother monitors his online social networks. And Lin hopes to keep it that way. “He only tells me the good news and never lets me know about anything negative,” the 51-year-old mom from Liaoning province’s capital Shenyang says.
“If he knew I secretly follow him online, he’d never post about the hardships of living overseas. I just want him to have an outlet to blow off steam.”
Lin is one of a growing number of Chinese parents who interact with – or spy on – their children’s social networking sites, such as micro blogs and WeChat.
But many people don’t want their parents to follow their every post.
Magazine editor Xu Xiaoying says her 16-year-old Yuan Jinshun blocked her from his micro blog after a week – even though it was his suggestion she start an account.
“I learn about his interests through his micro blog,” says the 42-year-old from Hunan’s provincial capital Changsha.
“I followed his idols, such as Taiwan singer Rainie Yang, on Sina Weibo. I even took him to Yang’s concert.”

The high school student says having an SNS relationship with his mother proved too invasive.
“I post what’s in my heart on my micro blog because I need friends’ comfort,” Yuan says.
“But I couldn’t post freely with mom reading. It’s better to communicate with her in real life. I’ll tell her what I want her to know.”
However, he says such SNS relationships with his mother bring them closer. For instance, he’s happy his mom likes the songs he re-posts.
Xu takes a different tact from Lin, who employs a cloak-and-dagger approach to track her child on SNS.
“It’s OK he blocked me,” Xu says.
“If he doesn’t want me to see his micro blog, I won’t see it. The more I dig into his secrets, the deeper he’ll bury them.”
In other cases, parents encourage their children to hide their personal affairs from the public view.
Liang Yun says her mother would scold her for sharing too much about her personal life on SNS. The 26-year-old public relations worker, who lives with her parents in Beijing, says she felt relieved after she blocked her mother from her WeChat.
“We have different views and values,” Liang says.
“Mom commented I was posting flippantly and she would post that it’s improper to share everything online. Her words embarrassed me.”
Liang uses her WeChat Friends Circle to share her inner feelings, including those about her family. Her mother regularly prowled her circle, until the daughter finally pushed her out – unbeknownst to her mother.
Then, Liang’s mother used her husband’s mobile phone and asked her daughter why her husband could read Liang’s recent posts but she hadn’t seen any for a long time.
Liang told her mom it was because of her phone’s unstable Internet. She took the phone and pretended to fix the problem, while swiftly and secretly unblocking her mother on her own phone.
“I can’t grumble about my mom on WeChat anymore,” Liang says.
“Now I just don’t post things she doesn’t want to see or things I don’t want her to see.”
Some people are getting around the nosy parent problem by creating two SNS accounts – one for family and one for friends.[db:内容2]