To friend or not to friend: should parents and their kids be Facebook friends?

To friend or not to friend….is this a facebook dilemma for parents…or is it a no brainer?

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.

But I will argue again that these online hangouts are in no way private…in fact they couldn’t be any more public. And my number one rule….

”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?

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This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Fantastic post. It can be a hard one to get right. My kids aren’t on FB yet (way too young) but I know many with kids who are. If they don’t want to be your “friend” they create multiple accounts that many parents wouldn’t think to look for.
    I think I would want to have my child’s password up until they were a certain age (perhaps 16?) and from that point, I would hope we have a relationship of friendship and trust where they wouldn’t mind me being their friend? Am I dreaming?? LOL

    1. Martine

      Thanks Michelle, and who knows what else will be around by the time our little ones are of that age! Just need to keep up and yes as you say nurture that relationship to remain connected.

  2. PlanningQueen

    We have the rule that (other than me and I have no activity with him on facebook) our 13 year old can only be friends with kids. A key reason being is I don’t necessarily wanting him to see stuff these adults say. For example my husband still plays local footy and the content that comes from fellow team mates on facebook as much as it may be funny, it is not something I want him reading!

  3. bachelormum

    Hi Martine

    Thanks for this artice. My daugher is too young for FB but she’s aready starting to show a huge interest in screens – it’s quite daunting. My daughter is 7 and kids aren’t egally alowed to use FB till they’re 13 I believe so i have at least a few years to prepare yet. I worked on a good parent website called School A to Z that has another great article about FB that you might be interested in. The site aso has a good general section on technology:

    I look forward to reading more of your artices♥

    1. Martine

      thanks and thank you for the reference, i will definitely check it out. And yes whilst it seems you have a bit of time, it certainly comes along very quickly. And many many 7 year olds are on some form of social media so it isn’t surprising she would be showing an interest.

  4. My children aren’t at this age yet & the thought of it scares the hell out of me. When I was a child my parents could screen (for lack of a better word) my friends. You couldn’t call me without them answering the phone so they knew who I was talking to. No we weren’t supervised in social settings but we didn’t have this very private, high risk social setting of mobile phones and internet. It just adds a new dimension, a new concern. I hope that we can spend the next few years instilling good safety messages and building an open relationship so that when it comes time to friending them online, we won’t have to worry about it. Or they’ll want to be our online friends!

    1. Martine

      Absolutely Kelly, the earlier we start being aware and building those relationships of understanding and communication the greater chance we will have of instilling these positive practises.

  5. Cassandra

    Facebook can be such a tricky one to navigate with kids. My daughter is almost 12 and has been begging me for a Facebook account for what seems like an eternity now. “All her friends have it”… or so she says! So far I have been winning the battle to not have her on there, but I know with High School on the horizon, I will have to give in soon. We have lots of chats about the do’s and don’ts, so that she is well prepared when the time comes. I definitely won’t be allowing her to have an account without me having access to her passwords and such. I think it’s the parents responsibility to closely monitor a childs activity where ever it may be on the internet… but sadly, so many parents don’t.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Cassandra. It is great that you are already well on top of things and you are right that High School usually means it is inevitable. And the old “all my friends have it” reminds me very much of a conversation I had with my 11 year old last night. Apparantly they all have iPhones too! (all except my poor deprived son!)

  6. yvette

    I will not add my mum as a facebook friend – if she ever went on it (at 65 I doubt she will!) Her sister is and she’s 70 and loving it! And she loves posting comments on my page…

    I am also friends with my MIL.. which I never wanted to do but hey she lives further away than a weekly visit so she needs to see her gc growing up..

    but if my kids get a facebook page.. YES I will be on it.. even if its in secret (under an anonymous name) I think there is too much exposure to social pressure nowadays then there was 5/10 years ago!

    1. Martine

      Interesting Yvette that you are happy for your aunt and mother in law but not your mum? I think we need to remember too that they are still going to find a way around many pages, lists and posts, so we need to make sure we teach them the proper skills to deal with the online world rather than just trying to keep track of everything they write. For the record, my mum is not on Facebook but she likes to log on when she is at my house to see my photos or photos of my friends. I just have to remind her not to comment on anything as it will come up as my comment!

  7. Misha

    Another very thought provoking post! My eldest is nearly 9 and not yet on Facebook. Honestly, I’m going to delay it as long as possible. When the times comes though, I think I’ll err on the side of caution and monitor it in some way. It’ll be a negotiation, no doubt, but worth getting it right from the outset.

    1. Martine

      Absolutely Misha, I think it will always require a bit of negotiation. It is important to find that balance between keeping them safe and giving them the independence that they crave and need.

  8. My rule is that I am friends with my teen daughter on Facebook; her rule is I don’t comment or like anything – a bit like a kid being told to be seen and not heard!!! Quite funny, but it’s fair enough. Of course she doesn’t want me butting in on her conversations with friends, but I do like being able to see her friends and get a feel for them, especially if I haven’t been able to meet them in real life. Plus it gives me a lovely insight into her life that I feel privileged to have. She has her secret life too – the private messages in Facebook, and Tumblr. But there have been times in the past where I’ve checked those out too, believing I needed to know some stuff, and I’m glad I did. That need as eased off now though.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Rachel, and yes i like the idea of being ‘seen but not heard’. And you are right too that sometimes it is a great way to bring up issues with them that they may be needing help with but wouldn’t have told you outright.

  9. Rhianna

    Great tips Martine. I think the line about being parent first and friend second an important one to remember at all times. Kids will always be able to make plenty of friends but only get one set of parents

    Fairy wishes and butterfly kisses #TeamIBOT

    1. Martine

      Absolutely Rhianna, and they’ll probably have better interactions with their friends if their parents aren’t commenting and joining in on everything they write.

  10. Janet

    When my teens joined FB, it was on the condition that they “friended” me (could be relaxed now as they are 18 and nearly 16). I think it’s important to keep a bit of an eye on things! However I have always tried to respect their space and not barge into their conversations. In fact they seem to like it when I comment or post on their wall, because they know it is all in a spirit of fun.

    Sometimes I *DO* see things I really don’t like or agree with that they’ve posted; if I do feel the need to discuss it with my teen, FB is NOT the place to bring it up – that’s for one-on-one time.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Janet, and you are right that there is a time and place to comment on your kids stuff and a time and place to bring things up with them that you may not be comfortable with them doing or saying online.

  11. Jess

    I think you make some great points here.
    My kids aren’t old enough for Facebook yet, but I hope that by the time they are, our relationship would be strong enough and close enough, that a lot of these kind of issues are actually a non-issue.

    1. Martine

      Thats why it is so important to build those connections early, so that even if they do get in to trouble they have a solid relationship with parents to help them navigate through the pitfalls. Thanks Jess

  12. Grady Pruitt

    Fortunately, my two are still a bit too young to be on Facebook, though the oldest is getting close. Whatever social media he chooses, I’ll insist that there be a connection there so I can at least partially monitor what’s going on. And I’ll try not to be intrusive with the likes and shares. But I am the parent, so he’ll have to deal with it.

    I like what Janet says, though, that certain issues need to be addressed face to face one on one and NOT on Facebook.

    And I like what I heard one person says: If it’s a gun, it’s loaded, if there’s a mic, it’s on. And I’d add if it’s online, assume it’s there for all the world to potentially see — and often not as easy to take back as you might think.

    Thanks for sharing this great post, Martine!

    1. Martine

      Thanks Grady, and yes we are still the parent and so can have final say. We just have to work at building those connections with our kids early so that we are able to find compromises when the time comes and give them the skills to handle the online world without having to follow their every move.

  13. Each of my children are different and my eldest is only 11. I don’t know if I’ll be their friend. Specifically that they can exclude me from a status update and I want to give them the opportunity to grow without that nagging feeling of me looking over their shoulder.

    So I’ll probably ask another adult like my sister or one of their god parents or one of their adult cousins to be friends and just keep a watchful eye.

    My nephew unfriended his dad (my brother) because my nephew felt restricted. But I remained friends with him so if anything would look dodgy then I could have stepped in. Because my relationship with my nephew is obviously very different than a parent/child relationship.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

    1. Martine

      Great idea Maria. It is another way to monitor from afar but still remaining aware of whats going on. I think some of my nieces and nephews may forget that they have lots of other adults apart form their parents watching their updates!

  14. Great post. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on them and their friend etc. I am not sure I want to be their Facebook friend though. Rachel

  15. Me N my Monkeys

    My son is on facebook.
    The condition was that he had to add me but that wasn’t an issue for him as he choose to add both me and his father.

    He is not allowed to except any invites without showing me first, and like ‘PlanningQueen’ already said he is not allowed to have any of our adult friends for the same reasons.

  16. Grace

    Wow! I’m really loving the comments on this great post! Again, you’ve made me think.
    My boys are still only toddlers. So while there are parents worried about how their children are interacting on FB and other social media networks now, I’m thinking that by the time my boys are at that age to socialize, I’ll have to be dealing with another type of technology or form of social media.
    I’m sure FB will be outdated in 14 years time and something else will take its place.
    I just hope I will keep open-minded in working out an agreement where the boys will still have their time with their friends and I’ll be able to keep an eye out without interfering. God, I just realised how tricky that will be after typing it out!

  17. Thankfully this isn’t something that I’ll have to deal with for some time as my little ones are still small. I reckon i’ve got ten years – god knows what social media will look like then!!

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  19. puke face

    i am the baby named facebook. i like to eat pizza and toilet paper. also to drink from the toilet bowl.

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