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An Alternative To Being Your Child’s Friend on Facebook?

| January 20, 2011 | Comments (4)
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Mom Though I don’t agree with the reality of the situation, a lot of parents openly allow their children (12 and under) to create a Facebook profile. And though children technically aren’t permitted on the site according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act  (COPPA) law and Facebook’s Terms of Use, it’s great to see that some parents are taking the initiative to be more involved in their child’s online life by friending them. ChildrenOnline.org pointed out that “In the past year approximately 63% of 7th graders listed their parents among their friends on Facebook.”

However, parents may be overlooking the whole idea behind friending their child. Why would you friend your son or daughter? Probably to keep a “digital eye” on their activity, see who they’re friends with, or to make sure they aren’t being bullied. Sure, most parents would do the same, and they’re all legitimate reasons to friend your child on Facebook. But being their friend comes with its limits—limits that your child can set without your knowledge or consent.

Granted, most people know how Facebook’s basic privacy settings work, so it might go without saying that child could easily limit visibility of their Facebook profile to only certain friends. In fact, they can block just YOU from seeing certain content, i.e. comments, posts, pictures, profile info, etc. And even if your child doesn’t specifically limit your visibility of their profile, deleting certain posts or comments that they don’t want you to see is a quick and easy process.

It’s also important to keep in mind that, unless you have the proper privacy settings in place, your child has access to your profile as well. That said, I recommend we think about what we post. Be the online role model that your child needs. I’ve seen a number of adults post content and information meant only for adults. Sometimes it’s content that they really shouldn’t have posted to begin with, but regardless of your child’s age, it’s probably information and content that they weren’t meant to see.

An alternative solution, and one that would make you more of a moderator than a friend, would be to know their password. These days, the definition of a friend has changed so much that friending your child on Facebook doesn’t really hold any weight when it comes to parental protection, oversight, and involvement.  And I’ve said many times before, if you do allow your child to have a Facebook account, friending is a good first step, but doesn’t come close to providing enough supervision.

“As a parent, our primary job is to keep our kids safe and to protect them and nurture them. As much as our kids would love for us to be the cool parent, we are not their friend when it comes to making tough calls and setting limits for their best interest”, said Doug and Marje from ChildrenOnline.org. “We are their parent and need to be consistent and strong in setting limits and caring for our kids. By working with them and having their password, we are better able to set appropriate limits and intervene when we need to.”

In the end, we need to focus on being parents, not friends (though it’s great to be affective at both). It’s becoming more important every day that we exert our parental role and let our kids know that we are responsible of their safety and well-being. Having their password versus friending them reinforces their understanding that you expect them to behave when they’re online, and despite the freedom the Internet offers them, you’re still the one in charge.

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Category: Facebook, Privacy

Comments (4)

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  1. m_nikolopoulos@yahoo.com says:

    Even as an adult, it’s sometime embarrassing to have moms on facebook. My best friend, pregnant with her second child, received a facebook comment on an unrelated thread telling my best friend to “go get her uti checked out”. This thread had over seven different people on it, some of which my friend didn’t want knowing of her health issues.

  2. What I should have added to my comment was that we also talk with our children frequently (our youngest is not yet old enough for a Facebook account) about the difference between ‘friends’ and Facebook contacts.
    I know Facebook like to talk about friends lists but the reality is that friends are people that you would recognise in a room. Unfortunately in my experience with internet safety the majority of children’s Facebook friends could walk past them in the street without any kind of recognition taking place.

  3. Thanks Mary Kay for another great article.
    I agree with everything you say with but would add 1 exception.
    Personally I take the route of friending with the backup of having their password. That way you are able to show trust but keep the password ‘stick’ as a backup and you let your kids know that it will be used periodically.
    That keeps them never quite knowing if you know what they are doing or not so they tend to take more care in what they do.

  4. Hey there Mary Kay…In regards to the article you just posted…I always ask parents to Google their children’s names once in a while to find out if maybe there is an account created that they may not have been given a password too and are unaware of. I have come across this activity a few times in the past couple of years. Take Care and thanks for all the great information you provide

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