Being Facebook friends with your child is complicated. I feel for the parents whose children reject their friend requests. I understand that some parents don’t want to be “friends” with their kids. I get that they may not want to get sucked into teenage drama and want their children to have a place of their own, but personally, I think that being Facebook friends with my kids is a great thing.
It gives me a window into their world
I have a great relationship with my kids. They talk to me and I know a lot about them and their interests. I know who their friends are and have been welcome to spend time with them on occasion. But Facebook provides a new perspective. Through shares and likes, I have discovered things we have in common that have not come up in regular conversation. Observing their interaction with their friends is likewise revealing. I become familiar with names that may not otherwise have been mentioned.
They learn that Mom and Dad are people too
As children grow into teens, they come to the realization that parents are separate beings and are quick to remind us of that. However, they neglect to realize that we have our own interests and friends as well. On Facebook, they get the opportunity to see some of these friendships in a new context. The friends we don’t get to see often due to distance are frequently important in our lives and I think it is good for our kids to see how friendships can last a very long time. There is sometimes also a hint of our former teenage years in these communications. I have also noticed that my likes and shares have sometimes sparked conversations with my kids of the “Really, I like that too” variety.
Some level of editing occurs
Having a friend on Facebook that you may not want to see certain parts of your life makes you think twice about posting it. This goes both ways and I think it is a good thing. Sitting in front of a screen, too many of us forget the scope of the internet. If you don’t want your parents (or kids) to see that photo or that status, maybe it is too personal to post at all. You get in the habit of thinking before clicking.
It gives them an easy way to say “Hi!”
Sharing and tagging stories, memes, photos, etc. can be an easy way to say “I am thinking of you.” My kids know I have an affinity for otters and anytime they see a cute otter video they will post it on my wall. Likewise, when I see something that I know they will like or makes me think of them, I share with them. (Note: Sometimes these go in private messages. My
goal is to say “I am thinking of you,” not to embarrass my children.) Yes, it is possible to share such things with those you are not friends with on Facebook, but it requires extra steps and in all honesty, is sometimes not worth the time.
When they are younger, they need guidance
While I don’t advocate stalking and hovering over older teens, I think many new Facebook users could use some gentle guidance. Especially with the amount of internet safety education that goes on in our schools, I am always surprised how many young teens have their entire Facebook life open to “public” and have listed personal details such as home address and phone number. As with everything else in these teen years, parental oversight should be reduced as they get older and gain competence.
Facebook communication doesn’t get lost
Communicating with them where they are makes it more likely they will get the message. Although we also use text, Facebook has been a platform for sending messages to my kids that I know will be seen. I have even been known to set up “events” to make sure they all save the date for family get-togethers. (I got some ribbing for that, but it got the date on their calendars.) I also tell them about these things in conversation, but Facebook has a nice way of reminding them regularly.
Cryptic messages spark real conversation
On occasion, I have seen things on Facebook that I found a little disturbing, perhaps even alarming. It is very easy to take things out of context. A status of “I hate my life” can mean someone is in danger and you need to intervene, or it may mean that someone overslept and is angry at him or herself. Either way, checking in will help. There is no substitute for real life communication.
As with most aspects of parenting, being Facebook friends is something left for those involved to decide. For me it works. I struggle with the balance: how to stay in touch without getting too involved. So far, they haven’t threatened to “unfriend” me, so I guess I am doing okay.