The Facebook IPO has arrived! But don't let all those $$ signs cloud your judgment. Guest writer and director of Quick and Dirty Tips, Kathy Doyle, on the 5 most important lessons for parents about kids and Facebook.
I am blessed with two teenage children (one in college, one in middle school) who have deemed me Facebook friend-worthy. And with that comes my challenge. I’ve been on Facebook for a LONG time – longer than both of them combined. That’s because it’s part of my job. As director of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, and a long-time, interactive-publishing professional, I’ve watched Facebook with interest since its infancy.
That said, being Facebook friends with your own kids brings with it unique challenges. So, here goes, my top 5 list of Facebook do’s and don’ts for parents:
Tip #1 - Tell, Don’t Ask
If your child is under 18, being on Facebook is a privilege. Not a right. Tell your kid, especially if he or she is in that critical, 13-year-old age and new to the medium, that he or she must friend you – and not restrict what you can see.
Tip #2 - Don’t Abuse the “Privilege”
OK so now that I’ve told you it’s your right, it’s also your privilege. Remember, your kid says and does things EVERY DAY that you’re not privy to. With Facebook, you will see and learn things about his or her social interactions that will give you a much better insight into who they are, who they hang with, and what their moral character really is than has ever been possible before for parents. DON’T ABUSE IT. That means keeping your mouth shut (or, more appropriately, your keyboard fingers still) more often than you may like. If your kid uses language you don’t approve of, DON’T publicly chide him or her via a post! Take it up privately or, better yet, put it in perspective and consider letting it go. Aren’t there more important issues, like the most recent report card, you want to focus on?
Tip #3 - Be Seen and NOT Heard
There’s nothing worse than a parent who chimes in on his or her kid’s wall, trying to be “cool.” OK, wait, there is. Chiming in on a post on your kid’s FRIEND’s wall! Ouch. Your kid will hate you for it. And, trust me, there’s NOTHING to be gained there. It bears repeating – be seen but NOT HEARD. I’ll be blunt – you look like someone with too much time on your hands and no interesting life of your own when you chime in on a teen-led discussion. Let them have at it and wait in the sidelines.
Tip #4 - Monitor Privacy Settings
This is probably the most important thing I have to say. Facebook changes its policy from time to time. Ask a friend, who is not “friends” with your kids to call up their profiles and see what he sees or, even bolder, log in with your kids at the family computer and ensure they are protected. Educate them. Make SURE they don’t give up personal information in their “About” space – NO cell number, no address, nothing you wouldn’t put out there. Be ultra-conservative..
Tip #5 - Intervene if Needed
OK, I confess that I did have to do just that when I saw a boy “rate” my daughter on her wall. He “friended” her after seeing her picture on a mutual friend’s wall (another state, another school). I freaked out. It was, as they say, a teachable moment for me on so many levels. Every once in a while, check your kids’ friend lists. And question, question, question.
I hope you found this helpful. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I’d love to hear what you think of our work here at QDT.
PS. I promised I’d keep this list to 5 but Bonus Tip #6 is definitely worth adding: Don’t friend your kids’ friends. Trust me on this. It’s creepy. You’re an adult. Act like one.
Facebook image courtesy of Juan Camilo Bernal / Shutterstock.