The only thing scarier to a teen than mom’s saying, “I wanna be your friend on Facebook” is when grandma says it.
How do we avoid becoming THAT mom? We often learn Facebook while or after our kids do, without parenting role models. I was on Facebook a year before my kids were, and I taught workshops on family Facebook safety. Here’s what we did:
- Stay legal. Facebook Terms of Service don’t allow users before age 13. Teaching a kid to lie about a birthdate for faster gratification is not smart. Facebook users under 13 place Facebook in violation of federal statute. Underage kids who get caught get kicked off.
- Be friends. On our kids’ 13th birthdays, they started Facebook, and mom and dad were their first friends. A local prosecutor friend was their third. “Why does HE have to be next?” our kids complained. If he was their friend, they might think twice about posting something stupid. That would help protect their personal brand. Check privacy settings monthly because their settings change.
- See but don’t be heard. Much. Watch what’s posted, but don’t comment or like everything your kids post. The less you post, the more likely you are their friends will friend you. Teens think adults who comment or like too much are creepy stalkers. If you have a smartphone, subscribe to their feed and photos.
- Be vigilant. If another adult tells you to look at your kids’ postings, do so. Once, I warned a parent something looked off. That’s when the family discovered their 15 year old had friended an out of state predator.
- Beware the games and apps. I no longer have time for games. When I first started, I accidentally sent a Valentine postcard that said “I love you” to my husband. And my friends. That posted on their walls. Including teens. I spent an afternoon deleting them.
- Veto if you can. If your kids post something stupid, try to get them to delete it. I told my kids if they post something on Facebook during school hours, I may correct their grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. It works better if I tell them privately than post the correction publicly. Any band or movie whose name includes a 4 letter word or “sex” in it cannot be mentioned.
- Encourage. One of my favorite role model moms – online and in real life – posts on each of her kids’ walls on Facebook at least once a month, “I love you.”
Being a mom of teens online is comparable to real life. Watch, encourage, admonish sometimes, and always, always love them to pieces.