Kids and Facebook

4 Aug

I love Facebook almost as much as I love chocolate – and that’s a lot. I don’t currently live where I grew up and Facebook lets me stay in touch with people I’m sure I never would have heard from again. It’s great. I’ve found my best friend from 5th grade, my best high school buddies and my first huge crush.

Opinions about Facebook can be pretty extreme: I have friends that hate it, friends that are casual users and friends that – like me – are posting statuses from their phones throughout the day. Those opinions can be even more passionate when it comes to kids on Facebook.

I’m really curious as to what other people’s opinions on this are. Both of my daughters are on Facebook – neither of them “legally” since both are under 16. (This is unusual for me – rule breaking. I’m a huge rule follower.)  It was something that I thought a lot about before I allowed, and when I did give them the go-ahead, it was with strict rules: all email goes to my address, they cannot change their password, they can’t friend anyone they don’t know personally and well. They also can’t post a shot of themselves as their profile pictures. Their privacy settings are a shade away from “invisible.”

So why did I do it? I find that Facebook gives me an insight into their social circles I wouldn’t otherwise have. When our kids are little, we control who they interact with. We supervise play dates. We meet all the other parents. We may even have a chance to spend time in their classrooms as volunteers. We are able to get a sense of what is going on in school, and within their peer group. I found that as the girls got older, I didn’t have that. I had only a passing idea of who their friends are and how that shifted – and with girls, it shifts, sometimes from day to day.

Facebook changed that. Since they have to be my “friend” I get to see who they interact with and the nature of those interactions. I’m not ashamed to say that I spoke up on Kitty’s page when the language got a little out of hand. Incredibly, not only was Kitty fine with it, the boy in question apologized. I know, crazy, right? I can also see when they are being excluded or when there is a friend who is behaving in a way that is not what I would expect (in other words, a mean girl). I can support them before they even have to ask for support. And no, that doesn’t mean I call another parent and read them the riot act (though there have been times I would have liked to) it means I can talk to Kitty or Beans about how they’re feeling and what they can do about it before the emotions get too powerful. Otherwise, I get the old “fine” when I ask how school was on any given day.

The girls and I look at their Facebook together. It gives me a chance to explain why posting a picture while posing in a bathing suit, or worse, a bra is a really terrible idea for a young woman. I can show them how, with a few clicks, I can see the pictures of a friend of a friend of theirs, a few years older, who is posing seductively in her underwear. I like that we can be collectively aghast.  I can teach them responsible “internetting” now instead of later when they’ll think they know everything. Right now, I’m the expert – not the other way around. I know I’ll have to stay ahead of the curve to keep that title, but I plan on it.

So, yes, my 11- and 12-year-old daughters are on Facebook. So are some of their friends. I think it helps me to be a better parent because I’m better informed.

What are your thoughts? Do you have children on Facebook? What has their experience been?

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12 Responses to “Kids and Facebook”

  1. Susan August 4, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    I appreciate this post, as I have been struggling with my 12yo and (nearly) 10yo daughters on this exact topic. I hear all the time about how their “friends are all on facebook”, and why can’t they? They get an earful of my reasons, often regurgitated from the last push.

    Oddly, I don’t have any problem allowing my 12yo, as she is pretty savvy, and I could trust her to not post anything questionable—although I haven’t yet because then I feel I’ll have to grant it to the younger one. My 10yo, although very mature for her age, can be sucked into the drama of everyday (mostly school/social) life, and I don’t know if I want to add the cyber-drama layer to it.

    I do like your idea of ‘schooling’ them via safe practice, however.

    The other hurdle is my husband, but only because he is very private and doesn’t even like that I share stuff about our family on FB (there are grandparents and other distant family members who rely on it!). I ensure him that my privacy/sharing settings are only set to those I’m friends with, and—even within that—only specific lists of friends can see stuff…. It will take some convincing to get him to agree.

    Anyway, this post is a good place to start, so thank you!

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 4, 2011 at 9:21 am #

      Thanks for your comment. My 12 yo was on for a while before my 11 yo got on. Right now, neither of them are huge users – they play games and probably only update their statuses once of twice a week. The important thing is to get be on there with them – they know I absolutely check their friend lists, what they’re posting etc.

      I’m glad I could share my perspective. Let me know what you decide, finally. Thanks for reading!!

      • Susan August 4, 2011 at 10:10 am #

        I’m hoping that will be the case once I give them permission, that they will just be satisfied with “having” the FB account. I was planning to be involved with them on it anyway—hoping that leverage will work. I like the idea of all notices going to “your” email address as well.

        Need to have a heart-to-heart with the hubs and see how that goes. Thanks again for the insight.

  2. lexy3587 August 4, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I don’t have kids… and facebook came out when I was in university, lol, well past my reaching 16 yrs old. But your reasoning, and the way you and your kids are using facebook – it sounds like the ideal way to give your kids a bit of freedom, while also teaching them about safe internet usage. And a great way to see more detail from their lives.
    You’ve definitely found the right balance 🙂
    and kudos to you for not tampering by phoning other parents – your kids appreciate the respect, I guarantee!

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 4, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Thank you. About the not phoning the other parents – oh, I wanted to – I really really did. 🙂

  3. Rima August 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I think that your approach makes a lot of sense. My kids are a little too young for it yet, but when they start expressing an interest, I think I’ll follow your lead.

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

      I always wonder what the next big thing will be for the younger kids. Maybe they’ll be begging you for a Google+ account! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Kisha August 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Right on!
    You have to teach them everything else, why not this too!

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Right? The Internet can be too scary a place to just throw kids into – like the deep end of a pool. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  5. jsh0608 August 4, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I don’t have kids, but I think that parents should have the password and check every once in awhile. But it is up to the parents prefrence of their children. But once they start disrespeting, then that’s it line has been drawn. Thanks for your post.

  6. Kimberly August 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    You sound like a smart mom. I would have taken the same approach and also required that I have their password, although I rarely would have used it, just the knowledge that “Mom knows the password” should be a bit of a deterrent from any questionable activity. Fortunately, my kids are a bit older and didn’t join until late high school.

    By the way, I’m 95% positive that the age for having a Facebook account is 13 (vs. 16) because my sister is a huge rule follower and allowed my niece to open hers on her 13th birthday.

    As for experiences, my sister does check on both of her kids and found that her 16yo son had a questionable female friend that liked to post profile pix while scantily clothed and had a profile open to all her friends with some tantalizing posts on her wall and lived in Australia, of all places. When questioned about how they knew each other, it was through a friend who found her in chat. Momma told him that he needed to delete her. He was embarrassed at first and she told him to blame the mom if it made him feel better. The girl replied that his mom wasn’t the first to ask her son to delete her. Oh boy.

    • Beth - Realist Mom August 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Thank you for your comment! That story about your sister’s son is frightening – do they not have parents in Australia?? Good catch by your sister. And I do think that’s key – checking up.

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