Let’s face it, these days teens are using Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram and SnapChat) for expressing their not-so-humble opinions on life, friends, family, school and the universe in general. As parents, it’s important to let them speak their mind, especially in the arena of their friends, but it’s also important to keep an eye out, make sure things don’t get out of hand.
If you’re lucky, you already know your child’s password to Facebook. Without necessarily having to use the password to “snoop” – it’s good leverage to use in case you think you have to. But hey, nobody likes a snoop, especially teens when their entire lives are wrapped up in Facebook in the form of statuses, inbox messages, chats, photos, who they’re “married” to, who they are “related” to – as a parent it’s hard, but you have to let them carry on without you. Only use that password if you think someone’s life or maybe reputation is in danger.
For the vast majority of us, becoming your kid’s friend on Facebook is the next best thing. Most teenagers don’t really talk with their parents – some do, of course, but many also have plenty to hide (or they think they do) – and if you want a small glimpse of this, become their friend on Facebook and…. Don’t. Say. Anything. Yup, don’t comment, don’t like a picture (unless they’ve shown it to you first), don’t question them about “who’s this, and what’s this about and why did you comment to her that way?” Most kids – not all, certainly – are naturally trying to “break away” from their parents. They are desperately trying to seek their own independence. Because of this, kids have their own language – they always have – to prevent the “adults” and “parents” of the world from seeing what’s going on, or at the very least, to let themselves feel like they have some privacy. We need to respect that.
To praise your teen publically, use your own Facebook page to tag them when you post a status about how proud you are of them, or how happy you are to be their parent. They can then choose if they want to “untag” themselves or not. This should be the extent of your influence over them on Facebook.
Even though you are not commenting or liking items on their page, keep an eye out for abusive, stalker-ish, bullying, hateful behavior either from your own teen or someone else. If you have reason to be concerned, ask them privately at that time about it. If something is truly going on, they will be appreciative that you are concerned.
If you’re lucky enough to have your teen trust you with everything, Facebook is just another vehicle for interaction. If you’re not, and your teen loves you, (but still thinks you are very uncool), keep a safe Facebook distance, however, be their parent and butt in, if and when it becomes truly necessary.