Mom, I want to be on Facebook!
Here we go. Whether you’re dreading the day or not, no matter who or where you are, eventually, it’s coming. Some time between, say, 8 and 12, depending on maturity level and place in the family (yeah, my youngest was roaming around on there with just his family to talk to at 8 – what of it?), I can guarantee that your kid is Getting on Facebook, the Gateway to Getting Online for Good.
My take? It’s gonna happen, so stop trying to stop it and get yourself in on the fun.
Online activity is a whole new world for kids (and parents) but almost overnight, it’s part of everyday life. A big part. Maybe too big. Take it from the Mom who texts her kids when supper’s ready.
Now, before you rip the plug out of the wall, keep in mind that growing up in a digital world is a good thing. A great thing. A necessary thing. How amazing that kids today are able to connect and communicate and learn in ways that we, with our home phones and typewriters and VCRs, could not even conceive of.
OK, I see you shaking your head. I get that just as there are dangers in the real world, the virtual world has them, too. But that’s life, folks. Consider this. If you keep your child from all the world’s dangers, you are keeping your child from the world.
I say if she’s ready, don’t ban the big, bad Internet or stay up nights worrying about its impact. Just teach her how how to navigate it safely and well, and keep an eye out as she learns.
So your child wants to be on Facebook? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Get on Facebook first. I don’t care if you think it’s idiotic or a waste of time. Get on there before your kid does so you understand how it works and what the allure is all about.
2. Your kid needs to “be” 13 in order to set up a Facebook profile. Yes, that means a white lie – one that their friends have committed as well and one you may or may not be OK with. My message to the tween: You have to be 13 on here, and even though you’re not, I will expect you to act 13 on here by following the rules below. If you can’t, you’re off.
3. Facebook is the first social online tool for most kids, and it’s fun, and fun is addictive. So get ready to watch the clock to see (and restrict) how many hours they are logging on there.
4. Help your child set up the profile and privacy settings. Only their friends should be able to see their photos and posts. They cannot ever give out identifying information – address, phone number, email. They must never accept a friend request from a stranger.
5. Your child must add you as a friend immediately. Being FB friends with Mom and Dad is a prerequisite to getting online. Your child is never allowed to unfriend you or block their wall from your view. (Uh-oh. Suddenly, you can see your daughter’s profile but not her posts..hmmmm…)
6. Your child may not post anything inappropriate and although sometimes that’s subjective (and personally, I pick my battles because kids need room to grow), you’re the judge. As your child’s FB friend, you can see all posts and any that you deem inappropriate require a conversation and must be removed at your discretion.
7. Remember that your child can see what you post, too, and everything all their friends (including the 30-year-old guitar teacher and 18-year-old camp counselor) post. If you’re friends with young kids, you may want to block them from seeing your inappropriate posts. The other option is to filter the child’s profile by blocking posts from certain of their older friends.
8. You want to friend as many of your child’s friends as you can, as early as you can. That way, you will see more of what is being posted in their ‘community.’ Bonus: as they grow their networks, they will forget you’re watching. (It’s probably better that you don’t ADMIT to momstalking, btw.)
9. Make sure as many of your peers as possible (aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends) add your child as a friend. You can’t be watching your newsfeed all day, and the more eyes, the better (Tip: If you receive an email from a concerned parent cluing you into some crap your kid is posting, don’t ever out that parent. You need a community to raise a kid and you don’t want to jeopardize yours.)
10. Finally, relax and use Facebook to interact with your kids. Watch their newsfeeds – not because you’re policing but because it’s interesting to see what they choose to post and who they befriend and what they share. Talk to them on chat and post stuff they’d love to their wall (Tip: As they age, get permission before you post, trust me).
This is just the start of a virtual friendship with your child. Before you know it, your kids will be teaching you what to do and where to go online, so get engaged and start enjoying this new aspect of your relationship. Like most things in life, it’s as scary or as enriching as you make it.