After I Friend My Daughter on Facebook I’m Going to be My Son’s Prom Date

Jane’s big Hanukkah gift this year was Facebook. She’s allowed to be on the social network so long as she uses it appropriately. There are two big rules on Facebook:

  1. Everything you write is always public (even if it’s a private message, even if you’ve blocked someone, even if, even if….)
  2. You cannot be friends with any adults. (not even Mom and Dad)

There was a great article today at Mamapedia about a mom unfriending a nine year old child. The article showed great wisdom in hindsight. A little foresight might have made things smoother in the neighborhood.

Before you friend a child, any child but particularly your own, ask yourself what it might achieve. If your child is under 13 they aren’t supposed to be on Facebook but that’s not because of maturity or Facebook caring about childhood. It’s because Facebook buys and sells your data and it’s illegal to buy and sell data from children under 13. If you don’t want your data bought and sold stay tuned, I’ll provide you with a solution for that little problem tomorrow.

If your child is thirteen and on Facebook I’d like you to answer the following questions with a simple yes or no:

  • When I bring my child to school I hang out with him/her on the schoolyard and chat with the kids.
  • When I bring my child to a school dance I stay for the first song or two, just to see how cute everyone looks all dressed up.
  • I make playdates for my 14 year old because they are not capable of making plans yet.
  • My child is super excited to see me in the afternoon and often asks me to join in games with all the other kids.
  • Sometimes when I’m chatting with a half dozen of my mommy friends I miss my kids and wish they could be there with us.
  • When I go to a luncheon with my girlfriends I pull out my phone and give them a slideshow of my kid’s pictures and they always love it and want more.
  • I need more teenage friends.

If you’ve answered Yes wholeheartedly to any of these questions then we diverge on our parenting. If the answers are no, as I suspect they are for most of us, then I’m confused about why you would want to cripple your child with your presence in their social network.

If you’re worried about stranger danger (not my concern but I totally get it if it’s yours), then why would you introduce everyone you’ve ever met at a conference and all of their friends to your child?

I’m not planning on being at my son’s prom any more than I’d planning on being part of my daughter’s Facebook timeline.

You absolutely may have different ideas about how a parent and child should connect in social media, but I can tell you this one incredibly important thing right now. The authors at Mamapedia talk about kids being teased about their pictures on Facebook. If you have pictures of your kids on your Facebook timeline make sure that they are pictures your children want shared with their classmates.

Women love to connect. We love to share in each other’s joys and uplift one another in times of need. The unanticipated consequence of Mommy Blogging and social networking is that we’re infringing on our children’s spaces and robbing them of the opportunity to make their own first impression. Let’s all step back a moment and think about a few ways we can connect with adults without totally humiliating our children.

And as always if you want privacy keep a journal, nothing here is private. Even if…

Recently I wrote about why I would never fan my child’s school on Facebook.

Facebook Comments

  • Anonymous

    Of course now I am friends with my children and their friends on Facebook, but my kids are 21 and 25.  I can’t imagine doing so when they were younger.  I do suggest having your child’s password as a precaution, so you can “keep tabs” on what is being said on their page.

    • Christina

      I just don’t want somebody else’s 9 year old knowing what I’m saying on FB and then repeating it to my kid at school! 

  • When I take my kid to school – or even if I just stop by the school to speak with a teacher – I do hang out in the school yard and talk to my kids’ friends. I want to know their friends. I want their friends to know me. 

    I also friend my kids on facebook. I want to see what their friends are saying to them in public. If I see something inappropriate, I want to be able to talk to my kids about it.  (I also have a keylogger, know their passwords, and check on their private messages regularly, but that’s a different set of circumstances than your post here). 

    In fact, my kids friended me – not the other way around. To talk about it “crippling” them with my presence – Gee, do you walk 10 paces behind them when you’re out in public together, too? God forbid they be seen in the presence of their parents. 

    As far as posting pictures of my kids – they tell me which ones they want and don’t want – and they usually don’t mind any, as long as I don’t “tag” them. 

    • Joe

      Pah. I’m sure your kids are smart — they know how to keep things from you if they want. As a kid, I sure as hell would’ve been uncomfortable with my parents reading everything I did. And I absolutely would be now that I’m 23.

      It’s not a matter of crippling them with your presence. It’s a matter of giving them some darned privacy. People live on the internet as of my generation, so that obviously extends to computers.

      • So I’ve had a computer longer than you’ve been alive, been on the internet since it was possible and make my living there – perhaps “your generation” isn’t the only one that knows a thing or two about living on it. 
        The post itself talks about “crippling your child with your presence” on their fb, hence me mentioning it. I don’t think my presence there cripples them at all – until they try to do something they shouldn’t, like being busted online at 2am on a school night.My kids are 12 and 14 – unless they’re in the bathroom masturbating, they don’t need privacy. In my experience, it’s the parents that give their kids privacy that are the only ones who are surprised when their daughter turns up pregnant.It’s not my job as a parent to make my kids feel comfortable – my job is to keep them safe and to raise them to be able to make appropriate decisions. As long as it is my responsibility – both morally and legally – to keep my kids safe and out of trouble, I’ll do whatever I have to – including being their friend on fb – to do so. 

        • Joe

          I’m sure you did. And I don’t doubt that others know about living on the internet. What you *don’t* know, however, is living on the internet as a kid. Not from a personal perspective.

          I will, to a degree, grant you the 12 year-old. But he/she can’t legally be on Facebook to start with. At 14 years, though? That’s high school age. I sure as hell appreciated having some privacy at that age. If nothing else, there were questions I had at that age that I would’ve been absolutely uncomfortable asking my parents about — despite the fact that they’re both medical professionals. But I had professional resources on the internet to turn to, and those helped me gain the confidence to talk to my parents about things. If I’d known my parents were watching everything I did from stage zero? Never would’ve happened.

          Okay, so your kids are up at 2 AM. Let them realize the consequences the next day. Did you never stay up late reading past your bedtime? I sure did.

  • My son knows how to use Facebook’s privacy to keep me out of his private conversations. But there are many things he DOES want me to see, like photos of him getting A’s on his report cards, etc. And everything I do is public, with few exceptions, so I don’t mind him taking a look at what I’m working on.

    I don’t look at it at ALL like you do. But I guess that’s what makes the world go round.

  • Joe

    Hmm. And it would appear signing in with Google doesn’t let me set a username. How annoying.

  • Joe

    I did reply to my first post, really, I did. Whoops.

  • I couldn’t disagree with your conclusions more, nor respect your right to hold to them more either.
    It’s an interesting perspective and I’ll include it in my own weighing of the question. On the other side of the scale is having seen the opposite position in action result in one of the most amazing young people I’ve even known.

    I’m not really going to address it here much other than that. We all get to make our own mistakes as parents and our kids will either think we did it right in the long run, or find a different approach when it comes their time, won’t they?

    • I give in, I can’t edit that comment because Safari on the iPad is wiggling out. You get the gist even if I do sound inarticulate. ;)

  • Three questions. Two on topic.

    1. Are you still reading and supervising her texting? If you are, what is the difference?

    2. Is your daughter allowed to read your blog?

    Off topic: could you please disable auto play on the Momversations video? Distracts me from reading the post but also became audio spam because it was unwanted and competing with the audio I already had playing before following your link from Twitter to here.

    • 1. I seldom look at her texts now that she’s in the habit of writing so that everything COULD be read by mom and dad. The difference is that all my friends shouldn’t be reading her stuff.
      2. She is allowed to buy she finds it dreary and dull.

      • Ok, that clarifies. A little. It seems that you don’t want your social sphere merging with hers, which I totally follow.

        But if you are supervising her texting, do you have her Facebook password to supervise that too even though you aren’t connected as friends?

        A follow-up to your blogging… If you’re using the same full name online as you do AFK, then her friends (and parents) could find you here through the magic of Google. So it seems to me that although not being connected through the “friend me” connection on a social network, that any mommy blogger could inadvertantly “[rob] them of the opportunity to make their own first impression.”

        Almost as though, mommy bloggers would need pseudonyms for themselves and their children when writing their blogs or else all impressions are one Google away.

  • This is a very interesting perspective to take into account when deciding this when it comes around. I do like the idea of allowing it to happen when it is supposed to happen according to TOS.  The list above is a valid list to consider not friending them!  I am thinking it is a lot like getting a car as a kid. Are you going to allow your kid to get their license and a buy their own car, then call shotgun on everywhere they go?

  • While I completely understand where you’re coming from with this, and answered NO to every question – I accepted my daughter’s friend request on Facebook. Why? Because it’s easier to check her wall to make sure there is nothing inappropriate going on there than by logging in using her password. My daughter is 14 and while I do trust her to an extent, I think it would be ridiculous to not monitor the things she does at all. 
    She is a teenager, and it is my responsibility to ensure that she is behaving like a teenager, not an adult. I also check her texts messages every once in a while to make sure there’s nothing scandalous there either. Of course she could have deleted something naughty but I feel that checking in every now and then is still a good thing to do. I refuse to be one of those parents that wakes up with a kid on drugs or pregnant, or have a child that commits suicide because I didn’t care enough to monitor what they are doing. 

    • Anonymous

      Easier is never better.  Many things on your child’s wall can be hidden from you using the privacy settings on FB.  The only true way to see everything is to log in as her. 

    • Dear Rebelchick -I’d have 2 comments: 1: friending your child does not give you access to everything that is posted since she can actually choose who sees what. And point 2: in order to prevent the horrible events every parent dreads, there will be other clues to keep up with such as mood changes, difficulty socializing, becoming withdrawn an irritable etc that will be a better guide for a more serious problem looming.

  • Haven’t had to deal with the 13-year-old on FB yet since I don’t have one. Yet. When the time comes, here’s a question: what do you do or say when you see something inappropriate posted by a friend or by your kid?

    • You absolutely talk about what she thinks about the comment that was posted -and you do this offline. My daughter will often say, that was inappropriate, mom. And this is how you foster good decision-making.

  • Lori Zambito

    I think it’s nice that you took the time to think about this issue and respect your kids right to have their own “space” and for you to have yours. There are other ways of keeping tabs on your kids then being friends with them on FB. These are boundary issues, as far as I’m concerned and I agree that keeping a distance from your children’s social networking space as healthy boundaries. Stand your ground. We all need to back away from helicopter parenting. Our kids need to know we trust them to make their own decisions. I don’t even like my mother or mother in law reading my FB page and I’m 39 years old. 

  • Christina

    Great piece, Jessica!  And funny too. 

  • Pingback: Facebook, Teens, Privacy and the end of COPPA | Jessica Gottlieb A Los Angeles Mom()

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  • Contestalisha

    The reasoning sounds good. But the outcome doesn’t make sense.

    I fully believe each parent should be one of their childs Facebook friends. OR they should know their passwords (which I think is much worse). It’s called parenting.

    How else can you keep a watchful eye on your childs online behavior if you are not friends with them?

    “When I bring my child to school I hang out with him/her on the schoolyard and chat with the kids.”This is obviously not true. But do all parents not associate to some degree with their childrens friends? I know when I was at home and had friends over we would MANY times (obviously not all) hang out together.  Parents should know who their children are friends with and get to know these kids.  I’m not saying parents should add their Childs Facebook friends. I’m saying that just because you don’t hang out at school with them at the local play ground doesn’t mean you don’t have any other contact with them.
    “When I bring my child to a school dance I stay for the first song or two, just to see how cute everyone looks all dressed up.”Some very involved parents actually go to the prom to help chaperone. 
    “I make playdates for my 14 year old because they are not capable of making plans yet. “Of course this is not true. But don’t parents monitor or KNOW what their child is doing or where they are going? I don’t understand what connection or similarity that “making” playdates has to do with befriending your child on Facebook.
    “My child is super excited to see me in the afternoon and often asks me to join in games with all the other kids.”Probably not super excited lol, but some kids actually like their parents and associate with them. And IMO if your child doesn’t want you around, then you need to ask why. Not necessairly that they’re doing something bad, but maybe you’re an annoying parent LOL. I know I never wanted my Mom around and that was because all she ever did was nag at me. My cousin on the other hand loved her Mom being around, and still does at 16. (Of course she needs her space at times).
    “Sometimes when I’m chatting with a half dozen of my mommy friends I miss my kids and wish they could be there with us.”I know mothers who would say Yes to this and not be bothered. In fact, many times the children ARE present at these chats with Mommy friends. So what’s wrong with it online? 
    “When I go to a luncheon with my girlfriends I pull out my phone and give them a slideshow of my kid’s pictures and they always love it and want more.”Don’t parents do this regardless if they’re friends with their child?  
    “I need more teenage friends.”No, but you should know your child and who they hang around and associate with. Having your child on Facebook is a good way to see what their friends post on your childs page. 

    • Momo

      Contestalisha I understand were you are
      coming from but in reality you are not “keeping a watchful eye” what
      your are doing is hovering. Hover makes children uncomfortable and want
      to hide things from you, especially if it concerns their social life. I
      should know I’m 15 and i can be embarrassing.

      If you truly trust our child I do not think adding them or asking for
      their password is necessary. I just got Facebook last year (by my own
      choice) and no i don’t add strangers or share my information online (no
      cell number or address not even school or city), I only add friends (no
      acquaintances) I DON’T EVEN HAVE MY HOBBIES OR LIKES ON THERE!

      My parents respect my privacy and i respect their rules. That is all
      there is to it. When parents get to nosy (and I’ve seen this happen at
      school) children will not be honest with you, for fear you’ll get more
      crazy over-protective ideas like adding them on Facebook.

      So you can take it from me someone who would know how it works from
      experience OR you can continue crippling your child. PLEASE believe me
      when i say us teenagers NEED room to grow. We can’t be your babies
      forever BUT I’m sure any kid wouldn’t mind just straight out tell you
      what they’re doing on Friday night if your weren’t already thinking they
      untrustworthy and immature and invading their personal privacy to find
      out on your own terms.

      If you raised your kid correctly their behavior should be fine by 13 and
      you shouldn’t need to watch that close an eye on them anymore.

      That’s just my opinion :P

    • Momo

      Contestalisha I understand were you are
      coming from but in reality you are not “keeping a watchful eye” what
      your are doing is hovering. Hover makes children uncomfortable and want
      to hide things from you, especially if it concerns their social life. I
      should know I’m 15 and i can be embarrassing.

      If you truly trust our child I do not think adding them or asking for
      their password is necessary. I just got Facebook last year (by my own
      choice) and no i don’t add strangers or share my information online (no
      cell number or address not even school or city), I only add friends (no
      acquaintances) I DON’T EVEN HAVE MY HOBBIES OR LIKES ON THERE!

      My parents respect my privacy and i respect their rules. That is all
      there is to it. When parents get to nosy (and I’ve seen this happen at
      school) children will not be honest with you, for fear you’ll get more
      crazy over-protective ideas like adding them on Facebook.

      So you can take it from me someone who would know how it works from
      experience OR you can continue crippling your child. PLEASE believe me
      when i say us teenagers NEED room to grow. We can’t be your babies
      forever BUT I’m sure any kid wouldn’t mind just straight out tell you
      what they’re doing on Friday night if your weren’t already thinking they
      untrustworthy and immature and invading their personal privacy to find
      out on your own terms.

      If you raised your kid correctly their behavior should be fine by 13 and
      you shouldn’t need to watch that close an eye on them anymore.

      That’s just my opinion :P