Why you should never friend your child on Facebook

By Jennifer Fink

Is your son or daughter on Facebook? Have you Friended them yet?

Back in the day -- you know, when it took 5 people to lift up a television -- parents could keep tabs on their kids by picking up the phone. If a boyfriend or girlfriend called you, they had to dial your home number and deal with 20 questions from dear old dad. But today, kids can reach each other directly, through a quick cell call or a wall post on Facebook.

So many parents are using Facebook to keep tabs on their kids. But is Friending your son or daughter a good way to stay informed? To know who they're hanging out with and what they're doing? While it seems like a logical move, it could do way more harm than good. Here's why:

1. Kids need freedom to vent

Have you seen the YouTube video of Tommy Jordan shooting his teenage daughter's laptop with a .45? His act was inspired by a post he found on his daughter's Facebook page. While the post clearly upset her father, the post itself -- which Jordan reads aloud in his video -- sounds like pretty standard teenage angst to me. The girl moans about her chores and complains about her parents. Who hasn't done that?

If Jordan hadn't Friended his daughter, he likely never would have seen her post -- and I think that's OK. Kids just need time and space to vent. What they have to say may be hurtful to you, so why go looking for it?

2. Kids are clever…almost to a fault

Many parents Friend their children to keep tabs on their kids' activity. But you know what? If your teen really wants to drink alcohol or plan parties, he or she will find a way to do it, no matter how intense your supervision. Some kids set up sham Facebook pages where they interact cleanly with their friends and parents, while maintaining other accounts for their true social activity. Most kids are pretty good at figuring out how to block their parents from seeing certain content, too, which can make Friending them a fruitless exercise.

3. Kids need parents…not spies

The impulse to monitor your kids' activities and to get to know their friends is a good one, but Friending your son or daughter on Facebook isn't the best way to do it. If you want to know what's going on with your child, spend time with her in the real world. Plan occasional mom/son or daddy/daughter outings. Go out to breakfast. Have family dinners. Give them trigonometry help or volunteer to help with their extracurricular activities. Invite their friends over to your home. Host sleepovers. Talk to other parents. Friending your kid on Facebook might seem like responsible parenting, but real parenting is done in real time.

Jennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and mother of four boys. She loves to write about boys, parenting and education and is frequently featured at an online schooling blog for OnlineSchools.com.

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