Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Teens And Facebook

To Facebook or not to Facebook.  That is the question.  As my son's 13th birthday approached, he repeatedly asked if he would be allowed to start a Facebook account, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to open that can of worms.  Kids at school are always asking him if he has one, so my husband and I discussed it and established some ground rules, which are still in the making.  It wouldn't work if we weren't dedicated to reviewing it frequently.
1.  You will not click on any links without asking me.  Facebook is the #1 place for getting your computer infected.  I also don't want him clicking on anything inappropriate for his age.
2.  Over my dead body will you play Farmville, Cityville, or any other Ville.  My mom played it with the grandkids for a while and decided it was such a waste of her time, she spelled out, "I quit" with her crops and was done. She took a screen shot of it, much to everyone's amusement.  I told my son, "I started an account for you so you could be social, not so you could become addicted to another computer game."  I made an exception for Scrabble because it has been a safe application for me.  Years ago a man posted on a forum asking how to play an Aquarium game because his wife was out of town and asked him to take care of her fish.  I laughed so hard because I thought he was going to post a rant about his wife's addiction to this ridiculous game, but he was actually enabling her.  It's bad enough having real pets to take care of.
3.  You will ignore all app requests until you talk to me.  Some of them might be considered, but a lot of them will not be.  You don't have to worry about your friends having hurt feelings because they typically send the requests to everyone on their list.
4.  You will not accept friend requests from people you don't know.  My extended relatives would be an exception. 
5.  I will have full access to your account and your password.  You shouldn't have anything to hide anyway, right?  It's not that I don't trust him, but if anyone gets any funny ideas about sending him pornography or lewd talk, I can deal with it.  He also posted a disclaimer with his friends that I have full access, so they have been warned.
6.  You will not send friend requests just to up your friend count.  It's about quality, not quantity. I know adults who do this and it's annoying.  Don't use people in your silly quest to look more popular. 
7.  You will not post anything that will embarrass anyone.  When in doubt, ask your mom or dad.
8.  You will be friends with your mom and dad.  This shows his friends that we are watching. 
9.  You will not get into discussions on public pages.  Strangers can see everything you write and it will be searchable.  Employers now look up potential employees on Facebook.
10. You will have very strict privacy settings.  Only your friends will see your posts, pictures, and other information.  You will not be able to receive messages from people who have not been accepted as friends so you can avoid bullying, spam, etc.
These are some additional things that parents need to know.  It's not enough just to be their friend.  You can customize status updates to hide them from specific people, so you really need to get into their account and see what they have been posting on their friend's timelines, pages, etc.  On my son's second day using Facebook, I caught a comment he made on a memorial page that was in poor taste and I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't checked his account.
When you are in their account, click on their name at the top right, then on "activity log".  You will see everything they have liked, commented on, etc.  Now that I have mostly ruined Facebook for my son, I'm looking forward to his use of it in moderation.
What are your thoughts about teenagers using Facebook?  Here is great resource at connectsafely.org called A Parent's Guide To Facebook.  It is revised as Facebook changes, so check for updates.  Staying one step ahead of our kids is one of the toughest challenges as a parent.
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