Many people ask me whether they should insist on being their child’s facebook friend in order to allow them to set up an account.
The answer I believe should be based on a few different factors, such as the child’s age, their past record of online use and responsibility, their friendship ‘group’ and your family circumstances, values and beliefs.
If you are deciding whether your child must also be your facebook friend, then here are some points you may like to consider:
The main reasons parents give for wanting to ‘friend’ their kids online:
- Safety concerns– bullying, being bullied, strangers, exposure to inappropriate material
- Curiosity– who they are ‘hanging out’ with, where they are going and what they are talking about
- Time online– concerns about too much time on Facebook, leaving less time for homework, other activities and real life relationships
A large majority of parents have their child’s password and sight this as a prerequisite for allowing them an account. Afterall just ‘friending’ your child does not stop them from excluding you from their posts or lists or seeing their online instant messages and conversations. But neither does seeing what they are doing on any one site ensure that their safety and digital reputation will remain in tact.
There is an argument that as social media and the likes of Facebook are the new social ‘hangouts’ for our kids then we should respect their need for privacy. I have heard that we shouldn’t interfere with their socializing online, just as we wouldn’t hangout with them at the park or shops or walk home from school with them listening to their every conversation.
”if there is anyone on the world you don’t want to read something, then don’t press send” If they don’t want mum or dad to read it, maybe they should be thinking twice about posting it.
I do agree however that it is an important aspect of their social life, so if you are their ‘friend’ then there are a few guidelines that may help you both find a better balance:
- Don’t bombard their every update with comments and likes, but rather keep a watchful eye from afar
- Don’t always tell them things online that you are perfectly able to in real life
- Don’t get too personal or say things that will cause them unnesasary embarrassment
- Remember you are their parent before you are their friend.
And don’t forget they are also keeping an eye on what you are doing on Facebook so be sure to model the same restraint you want them to have!
My kids are not yet on Facebook, so I am not speaking from personal experience here. I do know however, that should they want something to be kept from me, there is every chance they will find a new social medium, a new website, a new app or a new chat room to have their private conversations. Rather than worry myself about whether or not my kids are being my ‘friend’ on Facebook therefore, I am far better off building up their own set of skills and understanding to safely and responsibly engage in the online world.
And this needs to start well before they are of an age to set up an account on Facebook.
Have you had any issues with your kids about being their Facebook friend? What do you think your rules will be if your kids are not at that age yet?