Last month Mashable posted an article titled The Top 5 Things Parents Should Never Do On Facebook. I know for a fact that Mashable’s target audience is not overly concerned parents of teenagers, but I have to admit that the article was so poorly written, I would not print a single point that they wrote to help parents with their children’s online social media experience.
Some of it was just plan stupid and other parts of it was poorly written.
Regardless of why I would not use it, I thought the idea was good enough to attempt to rework it and promote it for pastors, senior and youth oriented, to hand out to parents in their congregations.
Print off this article, share it, or save it to a PDF to email it. I don’t care the medium it gets transmitted, just get this into the hands of parents.
1. Instead of Saying No…
If you are concerned about what is going to be done on Facebook, instead of saying no to them, sit down and come to an agreement with them how to best use it. Some conditions you may want to invoke include having an account that the parent has the password to, scheduled and random checks of all parts of their account without prior notice, a monthly review of all the friends added to their account, and even working for the account (giving up chore money or getting good grades?). This not only empowers the student to negotiate (and do not interpret that as “you have a say” but really I make the rules) and see if Facebook is worth it, but lets them know you care about them.
2. Remember It Is A Public Forum
Teenagers have a social life that usually includes avoiding hanging out with adults. Treat Facebook as something more than a “private thing.” I do not advocate ignoring children so that you do not embarrass them, you are their parent and have that right. Just remember that they have their social settings as you had yours when you were a teenager. Tag them in your photos, comment on their walls, and engage with their friends parents. That being said, “punishing” them online lasts forever, typically loses its context quickly, and becomes a reminder for the student over and over why they are upset. Have all disciplining discussions offline.
3. Be Normal.
If your are naturally friends with your children’s friends, make it part of the discussion in #1 to continue the negotiation. You may require your children get your permission to add certain friends onto their Facebook, why not give them that same power for you to add their friends to your account. Gives them ownership, teaches fairness, and promotes relationships between you and your children. At the same time, normal means not overdoing the mothering online to those friends or embarrassing them.
4. You Control All Privacy Settings
I have talked ad nauseum about negotiating, being open, yada yada, but one area I would be firm with is their privacy settings. When you come to an agreement of how to do all of this, go into their settings and set them at the levels you see fit. Note that the more strict you are, the safer they are online. Do not let them dictate this decision, but instead make this one a non-negotiable rule. Be thorough when you set it and during those scheduled and random check ups, go back into their settings and verify that they are still where you put them.
5. Reward Good Behavior
I am one for promoting both negative and positive reinforcement within parenting. If your child continues to do good things on Facebook, verbally praise them (online and offline!), take them out for special treats, and simply recognize that they are doing good by you. There may be no greater reward for them than to know that you are proud of the man or woman they are growing up to be and this online experience is just one more venue that can promote that.
What other edifying tips would you suggest to parents?
[Image via Sam Michel]