I did not allow my kids on facebook for quite a while. I saw some of the things that came through on my wall and some of the things that the tweens and teens tend to post, and figured they could wait. I finally let them have their own facebook accounts when my son was almost 12 and my daughter was 10. They had numerous friends through sports and theatre productions that they wanted to keep in touch with and since they don’t attend school, I figured it would be the best way for this to happen.
I gained a lot of insight about the kids of today through monitoring my children’s facebook accounts. As a matter of fact, facebook has allowed me to know things that I otherwise would not have known. This is because when kids are alone, they will talk to one another differently from the way they would if I were in the room. Their language changes, the topics change, and they are cruder with one another.
The first thing I learned is that too many parents have no clue what their kids are doing on facebook. Well, perhaps they know, but they are WAY more lenient than I am. Either way, I’m saddened by the behavior I have observed. Since other parents aren’t monitoring their kids on facebook, these kids assume no parents are. It’s like stepping into their world and being a fly on the wall. (Keep in mind part of this is because children have profiles that aren’t private, or aren’t set that only friends can see what they post.) Also, when your child has a friend with some questionable “friends,” anything those “friends” post will be visible by anyone who reads the thread. I’ve seen cursing, bullying, sexual innuendos, fishing for attention by “drama queens” (and kings!) and general unbecoming behavior that all parents think that others’ kids do (not THEIRS!)
My son has friended people he’s met through friends, and when I saw some of the things they discuss on facebook, I unfriend them. One example is a girl talking about beating someone up. This is just gross. I don’t know why girls feel the need to act this way, but they aren’t going to do it on my son’s facebook page. This girl was not talking about someone she *wanted* to beat up (although she had done that as well), but she told about someone she had beaten up, like it was awesome. My son doesn’t need to start thinking this behavior is okay or normal. It’s not.
I also have a problem with kids talking publically to one another on their pages and saying gross things like, “Goodnight, baby…” Or, “I love you so much…can’t wait till tomorrow,” blah, blah, blah. I mean seriously, they will have a new girlfriend or boyfriend every week! Let me point out that there is NO doubt in my mind that the same kids being all gross with their girlfriends and boyfriends on facebook are the same kids sexting and participating in child porn when they send sexually explicit pictures back and forth. They are at least asking for them. They get away with it, because if parents aren’t monitoring facebook, do you really think they are checking phones?
So why do I let my children on facebook? So I know what’s going on. So I can learn about their friends and which ones I need to monitor better and which ones are more trustworthy. They all act nice to your face, but what are they like behind your back? I’m lucky so far in that my kids think the same behavior I point out above is tacky, gross, and not okay. Because I know what’s going on “out there” I can engage in dialogue with my kids and learn about their thoughts and ideas as I share my opinion of appropriate behavior.
I know my kids are not saints. I know my son is just like those other boys who act differently when their parents aren’t around. I know this because I monitor his phone and see some of the things he has texted. We have talked about setting an example for friends and being the one to pull others up and not being the one pulled down by negative behavior. I can’t make my kids turn out to be great people, but I can sure try my best and stay in contact with their world. It is not fun, but it will be worth it in the end.
Facebook can be your friend. Embrace it and use it as a tool to help your children react appropriately when you aren’t around. You know…when they’re adults.