Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parenting in the 21st century: About Facebook

Friend and fellow blogger, Jessica Gottlieb, recently posted why she won't friend her daughter on Facebook. I love her, and I respectfully disagree.

As a caveat to joining Facebook on her 13th birthday, I told my daughter she had to be friends with me. Not because I needed to up my friend numbers, or to show the world how close we are, or to helicopter, but because this is the Internet, and what she does there could have consequences.

A lot of motherhood involves thinking through potential consequences. We teach our children to look both ways before they cross a street, but we also need to remind them every time they cross for their first 10 years before we know we've engrained that in them. And chances are, we're there for at least half of those crossings and look both ways ourselves, too.

I can't just throw her out there without having her back. We talk about things that happen on FB off-line. We talk about what she posts, and how it might be construed. We talk about things that other people post. We talk about privacy settings, and how they can't be relied upon. I remind her again and again that what she puts out there is out there for always, and while you can delete a post, it's never really gone.

Of course I realize that there are things that happen on FB that I don't see happening because they're in private messages, or she's navigated some settings. That's fine. It's not about me seeing everything she does, but understanding that everything she does is obtainable, and that she's accountable for it.

Jessica mentioned that she might not want her daughter to see everything Jessica's friends post. Again, my daughter is free to change her settings so that she doesn't see everything my friends post, but I'm also not responsible for what my friends say or do online. I think also, that seeing someone post something inappropriate helps my daughter to understand the consequences of doing so, whether it be my friends or hers. We talk about that, too.

I'll admit, I was surprised when my own mom sent me a friend request on FB, but I accepted it, and frankly, it does help me maintain accountability for my own FB postings. If it's something I wouldn't want my mother to see, it does not belong on FB.

There might come a time when Sylvia no longer wants to be my FB friend, and if so, I won't cry or lose sleep over it, but I think that being friends now is valuable for her to understand and accept the accountability for any consequences.


Kim Tracy Prince said...

Can I just stick my head in the sand and pretend this will never be an issue for me? Because it makes my head hurt.

April said...

Kim, that's one of the reasons to like FB's age rule, and use it to your advantage. You'll be ready when the time comes!

Jessica Gottlieb said...

Love this. I can see where this is an appealing method for a lot of people, I just prefer supervision while I'm standing next to Jane as her "training wheels" in addition to some more technical supervision.

There are many ways to skin a cat.

Florinda said...

I'm friends with my son on FB, but he's over 25, so it's not exactly the same thing :-). On the other hand, my 17-YO stepdaughter wants to keep her FB circle limited to her own off-line friends and didn't even tell us she'd joined--which worries her dad a bit, but she's got pretty good people sense.

I can see both sides, and I think the right call depends on the parent and child in question.

April said...

Florinda, I totally agree. As I said, my disagreement with Jessica is totally respectful; we handle this issue differently, and that's totally fine. Just wanted to get another POV out there!

April said...

And could I've said "totally" anymore in that comment? Or for that matter, used the word "consequence" anymore in my original post? Ah, well. Like I said, it's out there forever and I'll have to live with it!