Should You Let Your Teen or Tween Use Facebook
If it takes a village to raise a child, it may take a social network to raise a teen. Today’s teens are connected to each other and the world in ways that parents can barely imagine. So, what’s a parent to do when it comes time to have the “Facebook Talk”? Most parents confront the issue only after a child has been experimenting with social networks, unsupervised and without permission. As a mother of a teen daughter and pre-teen son, I was frustrated by the lack of resources available to decide if, when and how to allow my kids to engage in social networking safely. Here are three tips to help you successfully navigate your teen's initiation into social networking.
First, let's address the issue of permission. Creating a social network site without parental permission is much more common than most parents would imagine. Whether they think parents won't check or that they are too inept to figure it out, teens sometimes assume their Internet activity is under the parental radar. The best way to avoid unsupervised social networking is for you to educate yourself about computers and social network sites, texting, twittering in particular. This can be daunting if you do not regularly use technology in your work, but well worth the effort. If you can't track your child's movements and exploration online, they are operating unseen and unsupervised-a potentially dangerous situation. Teach yourself, and your child, about common dangers of networking and set some ground rules for use of technology.
Second, if you can't beat them, join them. When my daughter created her first Facebook page, she spent lots of time online chatting with friends. One night, it was her turn to do the dishes and I was having a hard time getting her attention. Rather than asking multiple times, I created a Facebook event invitation, titled "Do the Dishes Please". The only invitee was my daughter, the time was NOW and the location was the kitchen. I hit send and waited. Three seconds later, I hear "Mom!" from the other room. But she came out and did the dishes. Without any nagging. And I think she was secretly proud that I knew how to create an event. Sometimes, you just have to get on the bandwagon. Today's world is ultra connected. It just is. We can fight it, or we can join in and create the content and the exposure we want our kids to see. Create your own social network page. Get your family and friends to join. Create a virtual village around your child so that he or she is interacting with people you trust and who can help you monitor activity, moods or red flags.
Third, don't be afraid to be a parent. At the end of the day, you are still the parent and responsible for your child's well-being. Insist on access to all passwords and accounts. Trust but verify. Monitor frequently, but irregularly. If your child knows that you can and will look at postings, email, texts and other communications every once in a while, they will tend to be more aware of content.
While exposure to social networking can be scary, it is also a wonderful way to get to know your teens in a different way. You will find out things about your kids that you would not otherwise have known, like what their favorite movie says about their personality, who their heroes are, what their superpowers are and how much they love their friends and family.