Facebook for parents. When should a child get a facebook account?
Some thoughts on Facebook (or all social networking for that matter..).
Whether or not Facebook etc have a net positive or negative influence society will not be known for perhaps another fifty years or more, but one thing is for sure it is here for now, and not going anywhere.
It’s not new – this “social interaction” – facebook etc are simply “new mediums” for “social interaction”. Remember when mobile phones where new?, the internet? Short message service (SMS)? Never before have we had such an ability to a) communicate with others, and b) the ability to be heard! In fact this is one of the definitions of Web2.0 – the ability to interact with not just consume – the internet.
Facebook can be an incredibly useful, and powerful tool for enriching relationships. But, as with all “new” things – there can be side effects, and not all of them good. For starters, not only can we share more of our lives with others, if we’re not careful, others can perhaps see and learn too much about us – more than we might be happy with! And some who would seek this information, are not all that well intentioned.
So, here are some things to consider before jumping in with eyes closed.
Privacy and Safety – not the definitive warning but, if you haven’t had a “stranger danger” – chat with your child – STOP NOW!! Seriously this is not a joke – review a few of the following with your child. Social Networking is just another public (semi public) environment and a lot of the same safety guidelines apply)
For a good way to communicate the dangers – Warning: these can be confronting, so I suggest you view them first, then watch them with your child.
In short, don’t friend anyone you don’t know personally.
When should a child be allowed to have a facebook account?
Well first of all, in Australia the legal minimum age for facebook users is 13 – plain and simple. Next, I’ll ask you this – do you allow your child to go to the local mall without you, and be with their friends? If you trust them enough to do this, then it is probably a fair comment that you would trust them enough to have a facebook account.
Do I need a facebook account for my child to have one?
Technically no, but then would you let your child go into a place that you had not been to or were allowed to enter? My point is you may not want to have your own facebook presence, but in the interests of keeping in touch with your kids, I would strongly urge you to have your own account – AND – make sure you are “friends” with your children!! This to me is very important.
So, take the time to setup the account together with your child, and to understand the “environment”. You’ll be surprised at the positive impact this can have.
What does it mean to be a facebook friend?
Firstly, no-one can see anything on facebook without an account. So that’s the first line of protection. Second, you can elect whether or not “everyone” can see what you post etc, or just your “friends”…. So you then create online “relationships” or “connections” with people – friends – and then you say whether or not they can “see” you or not.
Who can see what I post?
Your “postings” can also be seen by all your facebook friends, and everyone (unless you set your privacy not to). Friends of friends can also see what you post, even though you may forget.
Can I remove something I’ve posted?
Yes and no – I would not like to guarantee this but you can remove posts – in some cases – that you have made. However, you should consider this to be no – as people may still “see” it before you remove it, and that may not be good!
What are facebook permissions?
These are the settings you have control over which determine what others have access to and can see – take the time to go through them, and if unsure research a little. Ensure you check your privacy settings in facebook regularly – as they will change the coverage from time to time… Further these can be used to not display your full date of birth – quite important – as this is confidential information….
Who should you be friends with?
If you wouldn’t be friends with them face to face then you shouldn’t be friends with them online either. Simple really! More, although some children consider it a competition – to see how many friends they can get – this needs to be kept real! Everyone you friend will see your posts, so for the third time – only friend people you know and would invite to your home!
Should I be “friends” with my child’s friends?
Again normal social rules can be applied – if you’d talk to them normally, then this might be ok. But – remember – not only will you see and hear what they say (some is not for the feint hearted), but they will see and hear what you post also?? This can go both ways, but my opinion is yes, however others might see this another way.
But what are the rules or boundaries for interacting on facebook? In short – Normal social rules apply:
If you wouldn’t say it in public – don’t say it online! – saying bad things about others for example can cause permanent and irreparable damage to that person, and perhaps even your own reputation. This is not a joke- it is serious.
Further, I know it’s funny as a parent to embarrass your child sometimes by calling them cute names in front of their friends…. But doing this online on their wall or posts, will end in you being cut off from them – they will “unfriend” you… Respect their boundaries, just as you would expect them to. (See article on “Many Teens ready to unfriend parents”).
What should I consider before posting online?
When you use facebook, you are creating a permanent record of your thoughts that you choose to share with others. Within reason you cannot delete it or take it back… Further, and in most cases – when you post, then every one of your friends will see it. There are ways to message” privately – Instant Message, Emails, Messaging, but Posts, and Wall Posts are public (subject to your permissions).
Scariest facebook moment!
A friend in another state commented on another person’s post – someone I didn’t know nor was a friend of – but it came up on my “news” view . The other persons post? Proudly proclaiming the achievement of her provisional driver’s license – complete with image of said license complete with license number, d.o.b., home address….. I quickly advised friend to advise innocent person to remove the photo, and it was taken down. But seriously – parents have a responsibility to be online in this community to provide a balancing influence, and look out for the “not so good stuff”. Otherwise it can be a free for all!
What about religion?
Facebook is not a non-religious environment, and many youth groups and other religious groups have facebook communities which you and your child can join and share their faith with. In fact it can enhance any ministry, and provide an online support community.
One last warning!
Facebook can be addictive! Not unlike any other social activity – remember gym junkies? – So keep it in perspective, it’s not a replacement for other forms of interaction, but it is a very powerful medium, just don’t let it become your only way of communicating with people. Again, too much of a good thing – everything in moderation is the rule.
So that’s my two cents worth. Common sense really.
This can be a rewarding experience and a journey that can strengthen the bonds between parents and children – just like any other social interaction – and if respected. Ignore it and you might end up isolated and left behind.
Further Reading and some good advice here:
Parents must observe unwritten rules of Facebook so they aren’t unfriended by their kids | Courier Mail