Last weekend my daughter joined Facebook.
Lord have mercy…
I thought I was going to keel over when Bug joined the King of social networks. And for a little bit it felt like I was dying but mostly because he liked to break my rules a little.
This time I’m fairly sure that my death is imminent.
It’s not that I don’t want her on Facebook. But there’s something about letting your very precious 13 year old girl (your ONLY very precious 13 year old girl might I add) join the largest, mostly fun, yet scariest for a parent, social network in the entire world.
Everyone and their brother is here. EVERYONE. And it feels like I just put my daughter’s picture up on the giant Jumbo-tron in Times Square for every creep, crazy and nut job in the entire world to see.
And I’m happy to share her with the world so long as they love and protect her like I do. But I know that not everyone is like that.
There is a sense that Facebook is different for girls than it is for boys and after talking to my BFF Mardi on Friday night when we set up her page, never was the feeling so strong. I know what I encounter as a female on Facebook. Random messages from creepy men in other countries sending me messages in broken English wanting to “get to know” me better… It’s gross. No one should be gross to my daughter.
If there were ever an anti-page invasion system for Facebook, I’d be the first to buy it.
After we’d gotten her page set up and we went through the rules (I read them, out loud with great emphasis and improvisation where I thought more explanation was needed), we set up privacy and I recommended close family and friends to get her off to a good start. People that I knew, KNEW her and would welcome her and help me watch out for her.
Then the referrals started. Within minutes she had “suggested” friends from other family and friends. This is fine I guess; except my daughter doesn’t know them and she doesn’t have a relationship with these people. Some of them I had to explain who they were and how I knew them. Others, I wasn’t even friends with myself.
It was a little dizzying; I love my friends and family and I know in my heart that they mean no ill will – they simply wanted to widen her circle but I really wanted her to be connected to people she knew; grownups and kids.
This is new ground for me – two kids (one of which will be a legal adult at the end of this year *gulp*), on the largest social networking site in the universe and me working within that same space so I’m encountering things that I see as both a professional and a parent in this space.
I’m going to offer up a little advice to those who not only have kids on Facebook but may also friend teens on them.
Get mom and dad’s permission before suggesting friends for the teen. I’m not going to hover on her page (too much) but I know that both Brian and I want her to be connected to people she knows and who know her and not of her because she’s our daughter.
Consider filtering them out of your updates. If your updates are often rants (as mine might be but my kids aren’t naïve to them and have heard it all before), sexual or adult themed innuendos or cartoons, or even overtly political updates, think about hiding those updates from young teens unless you know for certain that his or her mom or dad are okay with those kinds of things showing up in their child’s timeline. I saw one yesterday from a mutual family friend on my daughter’s timeline and I immediately hid that person from her timeline.
Don’t tag their parents in pictures of the kids or kids themselves without mom or dad’s permission. Facebook has some great rules to protect young teens which includes approving tagging before pictures are posted. The main reason I suggest this is that I don’t want the kids’ faces associated with my name and I don’t want their names to pop up in search results. It really is for their safety.
I’m not suggesting that teens live in a bubble and believe me – I’ve heard what they talk about when they think no one is listening so yah, wow on that one but I also don’t think that every conversation on Facebook is for their eyes and ears.
In the end I know that I can only watch so much and filter out so much but when everyone is on board to help me keep my kids safe, it makes me feel as if there truly is a village working with me in raising them up right.
What else would you add to this list?