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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:

Many Teens Ready to “Unfriend” Parents on Facebook: Reason for Worry? – HealthPop – CBS News

Parents must observe unwritten rules of Facebook so they aren’t unfriended by their kids | Courier Mail

Educational Leadership:Teaching Screenagers:Character Education for the Digital Age


A Guide to Facebook Security

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Parents make rules, children follow rules – it’s just the way it is!

There will always be rules.
In general, parents make rules, and children obey them. That’s just the way it is.

But even parents are children.

The thing Is, Parents are older and know things which can hurt children. Thus they make rules to prevent the chance of hurt.
The rules are made to protect children, from not just other people, but from themselves, and each other.
They may not always seem fair or the same as other parents rules, but they are the rules you must live by.

Living by their rules is a consequence of being their children, and receiving the benefits that brings. A home to live in not just a house. Hot and cold running water, food on the table and three meals a day. Clean clothes, Wide screen tv, unlimited internet (or so you’d think!), dvds xbox, lollies, Ipods, mobile phones, holidays to wonderful places.

You might think it’s unfair, but the thing is that in order to give you all of these things, your parents have to follow rules as well. And most of those rules are much worse than the few rules they impose on you.

They don’t like it either and they get punished as well when they break rules. For example if they don’t pay their mobile phone bill, they will not be allowed to own a phone. If they speed, then they pay a fine – hundreds of dollars, and if they do it again they might even lose their license.

You see we all live by rules, the ones god gave us – the ten commandments, the ones the world gives is – the Laws of society and government, then there’s the ones school gives us, and the ones our friends give us – in order to be their friend. And yes, the ones our parents make. And in the end there’s the ones we give ourselves.

So, no matter who we are we all live by rules, and when we break them we get punished, somehow, someday it catches up with us.

Why do we have rules? Well, why do you have rules? To keep you happy. Well it’s the same for everyone else, so in general it’s to keep us ALL happy! At least most of the time anyway.

Can you fight or disobey the rules? Yes. But don’t expect to get any of the benefits that obeying the rules bring. No food, or hot showers, no holidays, no internet, no tv, no cosy warm bed at night.

But why do we get punished? Punishment is to help us remember that what we did was wrong so that next time we remember what’s right.

But they aren’t fair! That’s true some aren’t fair. But really they just don’t seem fair. There are probably things that you are allowed to do that others have rules against, and don’t seem fair to them. Some families for example have rules that say no-one watches tv or internet – at all! That may not seem fair either but some people believe that tv and the internet put children in serious danger. Hence they have a rules to prevent it harming their children.

So, again, not all rules seem fair, but they are the rules, and if you want to enjoy the benefits that your life brings, then there will always be rules which you have to obey. If you don’t like it then you need to be prepared to give it all up, and live alone. But even then there will still be rules – you can’t escape it.

That’s just the way it is.

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Is ‘suffering’ essential to learning?

We all aspire to raising perfect well adjusted children ! right? (I know some people seem more interested in raising little devils! – bless them, but we’ll focus on the majority for the moment!)

So we’d do whatever it takes – right? We all know that the best way to learn something is to learn the lesson yourself – true?

Then why do we prevent our children from learning the hard way! Why do we make their lives so easy!

You don’t think so? Do you tell your children not to do things ’cause it will hurt?? No?

Have you ever noticed that telling a child not to do something has little or no effect. It’s not until they get hurt that they hopefully stop doing something! Like “Don’t run inside” – it’s not until they fall down a couple of times that they slow down…

But as parents we find it hard to “stand by and watch”, knowing what will happen – because we are older and wiser! Or because we prefer to have easy lives ourselves? I mean really, why do we cajole children into getting out of bed because they will make “us” late? Shouldn’t we be letting them understand first hand what happens when they are late?

Too often our world lets people off with easy outs. An extreme example is a question my 12 year old asked me this morning…. “why don’t police help people recover their stolen goods when they have a lead to follow up?” Hmmm, well because a) they only have so much time, and we only pay so much tax, and there only so many police, and they have more important things to chase, and b) besides, the insurance we pay gives us new belongings to replace the old ones. So where is the incentive to punish the people who do wrong!

But i digress. The point – without the legitimate suffering we all must “experience” first hand – we do not learn nor grow, and until we do go through this we do not become immune to the hurt these things cause.

I’ve heard of adolescents who simply never move out of home, or if they do they return home – why – becuase it’s so good (easy) at home – broadband, washing, cleaning food! then i wondered, why did my wife an i leave our respective homes “on time” – in short – it was shall we say challenging to remain there! (To our parents, we now thank you for this even though you might be hurt by it if you didn’t understand what a good job you were doing.)

So i implore you to – as a parent (or manager) to be sadistic and take pride in that! What! No! Ok, perhaps you need to be clear about the definition of this, as i don’t want you to misunderstand!

1)adj. someone who takes pleasure in the pain of others
2) not to be confused with cruel, some one who is cruel is mean for the sake of being mean a sadist (sadistic person) is someone who is mean for the sake of enjoyment

So, I mean – take pleasure in the fact that you are helping them learn by experience, not pleasure in their pain because that is cruel – and that is not loving – you are as a parent the one who provides unconditional love – and there is nowhere in that for cruelty.

So next time your child about to cross a line, think about this before you take away from them one of the greatest gifts you can give them – the right to experience suffering for the purpose of learning! Legitimately though!

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