Ten years ago, parents were engaging in the battle of whether reading their teen’s diary was an invasion of privacy or not. Today, the diary has been albeit replaced by a Facebook Page. For many parents who are not internet savvy, they may not completely understand the ramifications that can occur from a child posting erroneous material on their personal Facebook page. But in the case of the Rutgers Freshman who spread the news about his own suicide via Facebook, there are plenty of family members in retrospect, who wish they were following their children’s posts.
Additionally, over 100,000 children in middle school and high school have admitted to being cyber bullied, or to cyber bullying someone via Facebook. This can include hacking an account, or posting private and humiliating posts about a ‘friend’ for the entire world to see. With teens immersed in a virtual world of social contact, messages, pictures, and videos can spread through a community at amazing speeds.
For children on Facebook, it is simply a numbers a game. For most teens, accepting a friends request from someone they don’t really know, is just a way to ante up their total number of friends on Facebook. Then suddenly, an entire school system – and even beyond, can keep up with what your child is doing and saying on Facebook. Since there are very few filters that prevent other Facebook posters from tagging your child in a particular post, and embarrassing them it is essential you begin following your child’s Facebook page.
Facebook moderators believe that 13 years of age lends an appropriate amount of maturity for kids to open an account. However, many kids much younger create Facebook pages for themselves, often with out parental figures knowing – by using a false birthday. In fact, it can easily be done in seconds.
If you aren’t sure if you child has a Facebook account of not, then simply get one yourself and search their name in the friends bar. The majority of children managing their accounts, do not turn on privacy or security settings that make it impossible for others that do not know them, to see pictures, posts, and even videos of their Facebook.
Remember, for your child it is a race to gain the most friends they possibly can, which means they will accept friend requests from people they don’t know – and others in their school that have accounts which won’t be monitored.
If your child has set up an account without you knowing it, their name will come up and you will likely be able to see a picture of your child. If you don’t like what you see, contacting Facebook with the ‘report a page; button, and explaining that you are the parent – giving valid credentials where they can contact you, can ensure that moderators take the page down as quickly as possible.
For 82% of the other parents with children on Facebook, the parents are aware of the account. But is following your child on Facebook infringing on their privacy?
Experts in the area of cyber bullying and internet safety, say that its not. Instead, they say that it is your right and responsibility as a parent to make sure that your child is staying safe online. For kids, posting sexual details, or engaging in the normal antics of teen culture, Facebook seems to be without consequence. But nothing can be further from the truth. And parents can learn a lot about their child, and their child’s friends by simply monitoring Facebook pages often. In fact, The Coalition for Keeping Teens Safe Online recommends that parents check Facebook pages DAILY!
You should take a few minutes every day to check your child’s profile. Scroll through their friends lists as well. The best way to do this at first, is to do it with your child. This way you can talk to them about why certain posts or pictures of theirs, or from Facebook friends are both unacceptable and could lead to devastating consequences. Remember, your teen is not able to ‘see around the corners’ of life at this point, and it is up to you to help develop that sense of security and safety. Likely they will roll their eyes, and tell you that you ‘just don’t understand,’ forgetting that you too, were once a teen.
Additionally, check out sites like noslang.com/dictionary, which can help you to understand some of today’s slang and texting terminology that many children use on Facebook to keep parents in the dark.
And most importantly, if you see content from others (or from your own child) that you disagree with, you can easily make sure it is removed immediately, and block other children from your child’s friends list if necessary. Don’t worry, the other person will not know that they have been blocked!
Once your child knows that you are checking, and following their Facebook page – they will likely keep the page clean and free from inappropriate content. However, be warned that children can and will, (in almost 50% of the cases) make posts or post pictures and BLOCK their parents from seeing them. This is why it is essential to follow their Facebook page from THEIR ACCOUNT, rather than from yours.
Another great reason to follow the account, and to befriend your child on Facebook, is so that you make comments to their page often. Even though mom and dad are definitely un-cool entities in the pop culture of teens, the truth is that other teens will realize your child’s Facebook page is monitored by an adult. This means they will be less likely to target your child, or make inappropriate posts on his or her Facebook page.
If your child wants to set up a Facebook account, and they are 13 years of age or older – you should likely allow them. However, they should set up the account in front of you, and you should make sure that you are always aware of their login and password. And, remember – your children can and will find ways around you checking their content. They might start a new Facebook page using another account, and a different name, or they might simply try and keep you blocked from the content they post. This is just one of the hundreds of reasons; you should follow your child’s Facebook account daily.
Essentially, setting up parental controls on the computer your children use is important. Monitoring the pages they visit, and the content they post is also vital to their health and safety. Three popular programs you can use at home are http://www.internetsafety.com/safe-eyes-parental-control-software-affiliate.php, www.cyberangels.org, and www.netnanny.com. In the end, keeping your child safe online is YOUR responsibility as a parent.