Should you add your kids on Facebook?
12-year-olds are ‘friending’ their classmates, cousins, neighbours, fictional characters and even teachers but apparently, not you – their mum and dad, the people who brought them into this world.
‘Friending,’ as it has come to be known in today’s digital savvy world was not a common vernacular before the advent of the ridiculously popular social networking platform, Facebook. Now it seems like its run amok.
A survey done in the US last year found that almost half of parents with digital savvy-aged children, which could get as young as seven-year-olds, tried to ‘friend’ their kids on Facebook…but to no avail. In fact, only 52% of the kids say that they ‘friended’ their parents back.
It’s like having a secret identity, but online
A CBS report on the topic noted that, “some young people say having their parents on their Facebook page is like giving them the key to their online diary.” Once you accept a friend invitation, that person can see everything you’re up to unless you are knowledgeable enough to set privacy limits.
Kids frequently post pictures of themselves and their friends, talk about the things they participated in, religious view…or lack-of-it, that cute boy down the street, and that crazy party over the weekend you should know nothing about. Some kids were so disturbed by their parents’ request even quitted Facebook outright or created a “secret” account with a secret name so that they can go on being on Facebook without being detected.
If that doesn’t leave you convinced, there are even Facebook groups like ‘keep parents off Facebook’ and ‘eek, my mum is on Facebook’ to make the message loud and clear should you parents not get it the first time around.
Friend request: Denied
There are a wide range of opinions on whether or not to ‘friend’ your kids on Facebook. An article in The Wall Street Journal recommends against the practice, saying that it’s ‘time-consuming and embarrassing, especially when the offspring are teenagers, who generally crave some degree of privacy, even if they don’t merit full treatment as adults.’
As parents, it’s only natural that you have this innate desire to protect our own flesh and blood. But as parents, you still need to understand that children need to have a life of their own too. A life that only belongs to them and since they cannot move out of the family home…yet, the digital world let them live this reality out. And asking your kid for an access to that reality is pretty much raining on their parade. You do need to keep in mind that ultimately, deciding whether to ‘friend’ your child is a personal decision, but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If your kids are young, they’ll probably have less of a problem with ‘friending’ you, and it may be a good opportunity to model ideal Internet behaviour for them such as no drunk photos or inappropriate posts on your part. If your child is older or a teenager, ‘friending’ them might even give them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with Facebook’s somewhat complicated directory of privacy controls.
Don’t take offense if your child ultimately does decide to reject your request rather, just talk to them about what it means to be a good Internet citizen.
How to Help Your Kids Use Facebook Safely
- Encourage your kid to be selective about what they share by customizing the recipients of their posts.
- Use strict privacy settings. Make sure everything stays under the “private” setting!
- Choose the settings that allows you to see everything you’ve been tagged in (including photos) before the tag links to your page.
- Be notified of any activity performed on your name, including photo tags.
- Don’t post your location, there are stalkers abound!
- Set rules about what’s appropriate to post. No sexy photos, no drinking photos, no photos of them doing something that could hurt them in the future.
- Be thoughtful about their status updates, wall posts, and comments on friends’ posts. Remind them that once they post something, it’s out of their hands.
- If in doubt, take it out. Use the “Remove Post” button to take down risky posts that could come back and bite them in the butt!