The Top 5 Things Parents Should Never Do on Facebook
Dan Tynan has been writing about technology since Steve Ballmer had hair. He is a contributing editor for Family Circle, where he writes about techno-parenting; he blogs about social media and privacy for IDG publications and is the co-founder of a disreputable humor blog. Tynan is the father of two smart-yet-sassy teenagers who consider him a Hopeless Dork but put up with him anyway. Follow him on Twitter @tynanwrites.
Like discussing the birds and the bees or explaining the infield fly rule, having the ‘Facebook Talk’ is now one of parenting’s essential rites of passage. Your kids need to know the rules of the social media road and, more importantly, you need to know the rules – what you are and aren’t allowed to do in front of their 900 million closest friends. These rules will vary depending on your kids’ ages and personalities, so you’ll probably need to have this talk at least once a year. But here are five things you definitely should not do.
1. Forbid Your Kids From Joining Facebook
Maybe you think Facebook is a bad idea, and maybe your progeny are among the 0.3% who actually do what their parents tell them. But if your kids want to be on Facebook, they’re going to be on Facebook –- if not from home then from their phones, their friend’s computers, PCs at the school or library, and so on. It’s just too easy to do and too hard to police. It’s much better if they do it on your watch.
2. Embarrass Your Kids
Embarrassing your kids in public is one of the great perks of parenting. But do it on Facebook and they will defriend you faster than you can say “Mark Zuckerberg is a knob.” For example, when my daughter first joined Facebook (like many kids, well before before the official minimum age of 13) she would constantly send me game invites. Now that she’s a teenager, she’d really rather pretend I don’t exist. God help me if I post anything to her Wall or comment on anything she posts. In short: I can lurk, but I can’t Like.
3. Make Their Friends Your Friends
You want to be friends with your kids on Facebook, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on them. But sending friend requests to your children’s friends, regardless of your motives, is just creepy. If they reach out and friend you, though, it’s OK to say yes. Just don’t start posting stuff on their Walls (see Rule #2).
4. Bring the Hammer Down
Admonishing your kids on Facebook is a really bad idea. I made this mistake a few years ago, scolding my son in the comments when he posted a really nasty status update, which I heard about from some mutual adult friends. (Turns out he was quoting a rap lyric.) It took years before he was willing to re-friend me after that. What I should have done was talk to him offline and convince him to tone it down –- or at least make it clear that he was quoting, so my friends could call Jay Z’s mother and blame her instead.
5. Forget That Facebook is a Gateway Drug
Managing your kids on Facebook is relatively easy. They can’t really post nasty photos or get too out of hand without someone noticing. It’s a good place for you to teach appropriate online behavior and for them to practice it. The rest of the Internet though, not so much. Once they graduate to Tumblr, where there are no restrictions on content and no one but their friends and stalkers are watching, all bets are off. So get to them now, while they’re still young and relatively impressionable.
This post is part of a series on the digital dilemmas of raising digital kids. We’d like to hear some of the parenting issues technology has raised for you. Please let us know in the comments, or on our Mashable Lifestyle Facebook page. You can also follow and tweet us @mashlifestyle.
As a parent of digital kids, how do you monitor your child’s tech use? Do you teach digital etiquette? Let us know.
Photo courtesy Flickr, owenwbrown.