When it was time for my daughter to start using Facebook, we read articles, talked to Internet safety experts, and researched Facebook terms of service (TOS) rules for children. (Did you know children younger than 13 aren't allowed to have an account, according to Facebook’s TOS?) Then we sat down with her and explained the rules, both the Facebook rules and our “family” rules. Here they are:
- Your parents will know your password
- You will be Facebook “friends” with your parents
- Your privacy settings will always be set to the highest level
- You will only have friends on your account who you know in real life and who are only one year older or one year younger (to adjust as she gets older)
- Mom is allowed to read your private messages
And just like that, she took off flying, learning the ins and outs of Facebook behavior faster than she could whip out her mascara wand.
But the thing is… no one tells Mom how she should act on social networks once her kid joins in the fun! I mean, wham!—you gotta be careful what you say from now on. That funny inside joke your girlfriend shared? Unless it’s PG13 (or less) you’ll need to censor how you respond and whether you will re-share it. Maybe you’ll want to change how your updates are viewed: just friends or allow friends of friends? (Can your daughter’s friends see your updates and photos? Um, WEIRD.) And have you made a decision about whether your child is allowed to “friend” teachers?
I have no idea what I’m supposed to do when her friends want to be “friends” with me? Should I friend all of her friends? Where do I draw the line?
Isn’t it all a bit strange?
In case you’re wondering, there aren’t social media “parenting” experts to contact, or Facebook “parent how-to’s.” Nope, you get to wing it and hope for the best.
My husband, however, bravely marches into her social networking world. He “likes” a post of hers here and there, and finds ways to joke with her on her turf. Me, not so much; I prefer to let her do her thing and watch from afar. That’s starting to change though…
We are gradually crossing paths more often. Recently, I suggested a yummy cookie dough truffle recipe she should make. (I mean what’s a teen for if not gourmet chocolate-dipped treat-making?) Later she responded to an update of mine, saying that a clarification was needed (ahem) after I’d posted a fabulous photo of cupcakes. She wanted to be sure everyone knew that she was the actual cupcake decorator (but I swear I baked them!).
Maybe there’s something a mom can learn about her relationship with her daughter via social media—who would have guessed? I’ve observed how my daughter is careful of others’ feelings even in the online sphere. And yes, she is definitely boy crazy—OY! But I’ve also seen her humor and creative intelligence blossom and I don’t think I’d have seen that otherwise. And I think she watches how I handle my relationships with my husband, my family, and my friends. I’d like to know what she sees and what she’s learned about her mother via this thing called Facebook.
What are you learning about your kids while watching them play in the social media world? Have you learned any parenting lessons? ‘Cuz I’d love to hear your tips!