Tip #11 Get to Know Facebook

Jun 29

Do you remember when email first arrived on the internet scene? I know… It seems like a hundred years ago. Back in those pioneer days of the web, there was no shortage of people claiming they would never use that newfangled electronic mail. Why type a message when a perfectly good phone was so much easier?  Of course, as the world’s population migrated to the newest form of chitchat (and parents realized they were out of the loop of their grownup kids’ lives without it), the waves of naysayers dissipated.  Know anyone who doesn’t use email?

Social networking is not unlike the email revolution. Facebook is leading the charge as the newest form of online information sharing with an estimated 700 million users.  While another social sharing site may one day take its place, suffice to say that old fashioned email is losing some ground.

Whether the youngest members of the family have yet to join a social network or not, parents should brace themselves for the inevitable moment when the kids take their social life to the web. Or, more aptly – broadcast it to, uh, the world. With a minimum age of 13 years to join, Mom and Dad cannot expect the kids will ask permission to join once they hit their tweens.  It will happen. Best to become familiar with how it all works, then. Right?

“But I don’t care about finding all my old high school friends,” is what I hear from so many parents who are reluctant to join. That, I always tell them, is not worth worrying about.  Most of those keeners looking to reunite with old acquaintances have given up the search.  Facebook is more about staying connected with those who matter most -either in business, family, or community.  Kids are no exception.  They are joining the network in droves (often before turning 13 years old) – eager to keep up with their friends’ lives during those few hours when they’re not at school together.  The upside to this is your phone is always available!

Unfortunately, since any person with a Facebook page can “friend” your child, the number of people viewing his or her personal information could quickly multiply into the hundreds.  Unless you, as a parent, are comfortable with the possibility that your kid is over-sharing with some 30-year-old dude from Alabama who happens to love Black Ops as much as he does, it’s a good idea to know how the most popular social network works.  That means joining, yourself.

A general rule of thumb to follow is: the younger the child, the more involved the parent needs to be on his or her Facebook page.  Parents should absolutely “friend” their kids if they are below the minimum age limit.  That helps police any inappropriate postings on his or her wall, as well as ensures those “friends” are authentic buddies, not the dude from Alabama.  I’d personally recommend “friending” your child regardless of his or her age, but that’s something that each family needs to figure out on their own.

When my girlfriend checked out her 11-year-old daughter’s Facebook page recently, she noticed her daughter’s best friend had posted a highly sexual lyric from a Rihanna song on her wall.  Because my girlfriend has established rules around her daughter’s use of the network (including she cannot friend anyone without her mother’s permission), she was able to view this and hence, contact the girl’s father.  He had the post removed.  These kinds of things happen on Facebook.  Better to be aware of it and deal with it… then not know about it at all.

Lastly, if while reading this blog post you wonder ‘what does she mean by wall, or post, or friending?’ then take that as a huge hint that you need to join.  It’s the new lingo and if you want to be part of that conversation with your kids, you’d best get on board… Remember, you can always ignore friend requests from your old high school acquaintances.  But it’s  not such a great idea to ignore an important new part of your kids’ social life.  I can’t promise it’ll make your kids think you’re hip, but at least they’ll have a tougher time pulling the wool over your eyes.

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