Friend Your Kids: Why Parents Should Befriend Their Children on Facebook
By Karl Fenderlander:
My parents "joined" Facebook a couple of years ago. It was a big step for both of them, or it would have been, but their page is stagnant as a swamp. It took them a month to accept my friend request, but ostensibly in their defense, it also took my mother several days to call me and ask what the envelope on her cell phone meant and how she could get it to go away when she got her first text message. My parents are not early adopters.
Just the other day, a notification popped up indicating that one (or both -- they have a joint account) of my parents had not only liked but actually commented on one of my posts. They know how to use Facebook now. For me, this isn't an issue (read: they've already seen all of my pictures from Burning Man). For some people, though, this is akin to velociraptors figuring out how to open doors, and it led to some interesting conversation with a few friends of mine, some of whom happen to be parents (albeit parents of kids too young for Facebook's 13-and-over age limit -- still, that day is coming).
To Friend or not to Friend (or Friend and then immediately block or un-friend)
I think it's perfectly reasonable for parents to be friends with their children on Facebook -- at any age. As adults, it's easier, but when your kids are hitting their teenage years, it's downright imperative. Here's why:
1. Show them that you can respect their individuality.
This is a big one. If you constantly nag at your kids via their Facebook pages, respond to every one of their comments like a personal censor, or leave sappy "I wuv yous" on their timeline, then you're doing it wrong. Kids are kids. They are not always right; they think differently than you do.
For the same reasons you don't follow them around when they're out with their friends, correcting them and spit-wiping dirt from cheeks, you need to cut the cord on Facebook. You don't dig through your kids' things while they're at school or at their tutor session for SAT help, so don't dig through their pics and posts. You'll both appreciate it.
2. Break down barriers.
I read a comment on a blog the other day that said when you're Facebook friends with your kids, you can't say certain things. (The commenter went on to say that he couldn't say "Santa needs to go shopping" without worrying about breaking his son's heart. Either that guy's son is too old to believe in Santa or too young to be on Facebook -- parenting issues of their own right.)
Santa aside, healthy relationships of any kind should never involve duplicity. Take the time to talk to your kids about your issues. Neither of you should be posting negative remarks about the other for the world to see.
3. Reinforcing accountability.
Like it or not, cyber-bullying is a big issue in our culture today. It's not hackers beating up your kids for their lunch money at online high schools; it's real kids, who know each other in person, really bullying online -- and it has real consequences. Being friends with your children on Facebook, you'll have a window into their social interactions. There's a chance they might be getting abused; there's a chance they might be abusive. Either way, the situation is best addressed offline, even if you find out through your news feed. Kids should also be aware that everyone, including colleges and potential employers, is checking Facebook these days.
Just like in reality, you should be a parent first and a friend second. Remember to be both, and remember it's in that order.
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for start-ups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found at various coffee shops researching the latest computer schools in Texas to advance his tech-career craze.
Also, see Why You Should Never Friend Your Child on Facebook