For my daughter and most of her friends, getting a Facebook page at 13 was a rite of passage. Chances are, if you have a tween, s/he is looking forward to that day. So what do you need to know if your teen is about to enter the world of Facebook?
1. Have your own account before you allow your child to get one. Simply put, you need to be “friends” with your child on Facebook; therefore, you need a Facebook account.
2. Guide your child through the opening account process. Yes, that means you need to be savvy enough to navigate Facebook; but since you already have a Facebook page (see #1), this should be no problem for you! That also means that you should know his/her password. Make it clear to your teen that you have the right to log onto his Facebook account. I’m not advocating being an overbearing, controlling parent. I’m advocating guiding your young teen and keeping him/her safe.
For example, one time our daughter, new to Facebook, put on her status that “I am so bored all home alone.” Her Dad saw this while he was at work and called her to tell her to delete that status. But if he had not been able to reach her, he could have logged onto her account to remove this status himself.
3. Profile page. Make sure your child does not list his/her city, year of birth, or contact information.
4. Privacy settings. Under “account” there is a very important link for privacy settings. Read this page carefully. Check out all the links and make sure your teen’s privacy settings are as private as you can make them.
5. Friends. You should know or be aware of every person that your young teen adds to his/her Friends list. My son once had a request from someone we did not know. We googled him and saw that he lived close by and was a registered sex offender.
6. Don’t advertise being alone. See #2. Make sure your teen doesn’t advertise the fact that she is home alone. It’s like answering the phone and saying, “My mom isn’t here right now.”
7. Abuse=deactivation. Finally, be sure that your teen understands that she will have to delete her Facebook page if she abuses it. And make sure you follow through with the consequences if that happens.
Etiquette Rules to Teach to Your Teen
Navigating the social rules of Facebook can be tricky. But one rule should trump all the others: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Play nice. Don’t pick fights. Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Here are some more specific ways for your teen (and you) to put this into action:
1. Your wall is not private. In other words, everything that you put on your wall or someone’s wall is fair game for anyone to read and comment upon. This leads to…
2. Be thoughtful, courteous, and sensitive. This is especially an issue with teenage girls. Remember, everything you post on your wall or a friend’s wall is public. So if you post on Friend A’s wall, “Hey, I had a great time at your slumber party last night,” well, you maybe just spilled the beans that Friend A had a slumber party. And then Friends B and C comment and say, “That was so fun!” And guess what Friends D and E are doing? Feeling like losers. Be sensitive and send a private message instead.
3. Stay out of Facebook drama. Avoid making comments that you know will hurt someone’s feelings. Don’t be snarky, and never be a bully.
4. Be careful with photographs.
• Avoid posting pictures of fun things you and your friends did together when other people were clearly left out. If you had a private party, keep it private.
• Do not post seductive photographs. It’s terribly disturbing to see photos of young girls in bikinis or pursing their lips and making that “come hither” look. Please.
5. You don’t have to share everything on Facebook. Don’t use profanity. Don’t spout off an angry status because you’re mad at someone. That doesn’t mean that you always have to be fake happy, but as your own mother probably said to you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I love Facebook. I’m all in favor of social networking. Being an aware Facebook parent not only will help keep your child safe, but it will help you to know what your teen and her friends are interested in. Hopefully, the guidance you provided at a younger age will make a difference as they get older.
Does your young teen have a Facebook account? What “danger” areas have you encountered?
Sarah Small writes about homeschooling, writing, parenting, and life in general at SmallWorld at Home. She is in her 12th year of homeschooling, currently with a 9th grader and a 5th grader. Her older son, who was homeschooled all the way through high school, is a sophomore in college. The Smalls live near the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.