Kids and social networking
4/18/2012 9:30:00 AM
When I reluctantly gave in and allowed my 13-year-old daughter to have a Facebook account last Fall, I expected the worst: inappropriate posts and comments, a flood of friend requests from people I didn’t know, and yet more time spent online rather than doing homework and reading books.
The reality has been somewhat different and a pleasant surprise. Yes, there have been some awkward moments – and a lot more friends than I am comfortable with – but all in all the experience has been a positive one, a way for her to have fun with her immediate friends but also to stay in touch with camp buddies and far-off family.
One of the things we agreed on when we first set up her Facebook page was that all notifications would come through my e-mail address. My daughter wasn’t very happy with this arrangement but I made it a condition of her getting the account. This turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did. Not only do I get to see all friend requests but I also see all the comments on her posts and anything else she is tagged in. Although I occasionally ask her about something I see, I am careful not to overdo it. It’s an arrangement I want to keep in place for as long as I can!
The other key to safe social networking is managing the mobile experience. When a lot of parents agree to a Facebook account, they have this vision of their child coming home from school, firing up the family computer, and spending 15 minutes catching up on the day’s gossip and posting more cute pictures of the family pet. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Instead, kids walk around with their own computer in their pocket, equipped with intelligent text, a high definition video camera, and instant upload capability to Facebook and a dozen other networking sites.
If mistakes are made on Facebook, they are often made from a smartphone. An inappropriate picture from a sleepover, a too hasty response to a provocative comment, or just taking the bait when a friend dares you to “post that to Facebook,” all these things are done in the heat of the moment but the effects can last a lifetime. If your child has a Facebook account and a smartphone, then make sure you spell out exactly what they can and can’t do. You can also do your bit by banning smartphones from parties and keeping them out of the bedroom.
The Facebook experience for young kids can be a lot of fun – just group texting with pictures, as my daughter likes to describe it – but it can also be perilous. Like everything else in their young lives, make sure you are there for them until you are completely confident they know how to safely get by on their own.
Does your child have a Facebook account? Has your experience been a positive one or negative one?
This article first appeared in Family Buzz, a
on the exciting and ever-expanding world of mobile technology.