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.