Chelsi's Educational Musings

Parenting the Facebook Generation

Posted on: September 22, 2011

I recently viewed Danah Boyd’s talk on teenagers living with social media and was all set to blog about it.  However, when reading through the blogs my peers in my ECI831 class, I came across Laura’s insightful post about being a parent in a Facebook world.  I now have even more ideas that I want to blog about, so I will put my original thoughts regarding Danah’s presentation on the back burner until tomorrow!

Laura posted in her blog about parenting teenagers who are Facebook users.  Two of her children have allowed her to be their friends, while the other two have not.  Previous to her post, I had given much thought to what it would be like being a teenager and being on Facebook.  In fact, that is what my “planned” blog post was about.  However, I had not thought much about being a PARENT of a teenage Facebooker.  Having no children of my own, but putting myself in Laura’s position, I wavered between which option I would rather – being friends with my children, or not being their friends.  On one hand, knowing what my child was doing, thinking, and how he/she was behaving could provide piece of mind, but it may also be too much information at times.  On the other hand, not being friends with my child would not allow me to monitor his/her behaviour, and this would be unsettling.  I think that in my opinion, too much information is better than none at all.  Both my brother and I are friends with our parents on Facebook.  Most of my friends are friends with their parents as well.  However, at our age, we really do not have anything to hide!  As a teenager, I do not know how I would have felt if my parents were on my friends list.  I can imagine that many teenagers would not accept their parents’ friend requests, simply out of fact that it would be another way for their parents to monitor them.  I also think that most teens are tech-savy enough to know that if they accept their parents as friends, they can use filters to block certain pictures and status from being seen by their parents’ concerned eyes.  (Incidentally, Saturday Night Live had the funniest skit about downloading a “My Mom’s On Facebook” App filter posts so that they appear decent to your mother.  Unfortunately, unless you’re American, you can’t view it on NBC or YouTube.  However, our friends to the south can enjoy it here.)

The topic of parents of teenage Facebookers caused me to think about my cousin, her daughter, and their Facebook issues.  My cousin’s daughter is not a teenager – she is only nine years old.  My cousin did not want her using Facebook yet, simply because she is under the restricted age limit, and she felt that at that age, she should be playing with her friends rather than talking to them online.  Her daughter’s father, who her daughter lives with part time, allowed her to set up a Facebook account.  At first, my cousin was annoyed and concerned, but she has since set boundaries with her daughter.  Now, while being her Facebook friend, she is able to monitor her daughter’s behaviour online.  With parents friending their children on Facebook, I feel that there are less privacy and safety issues as were the case in chatrooms.

Before I sign off, I’m leaving you with a few questions.  First of all, to those of you with children, I am wondering, simply out of curiosity, how many of you are friends with your child?  Have you ever had issues with what he/she has posted on Facebook?  Second, do you feel that there should age restrictions on how old a child must be before he/she can set up an account, or should social networks be accessible to all ages?  I personally feel that the Facebook should be available to all ages and that the minimum age limit should be removed, granted that a parent or guardian is monitoring the online behaviour.  The age requirement is rarely followed anyway, from what I can see, as the majority of my 10-11 year old students are on Facebook.  I feel that Facebook could be used in education (something that I will discuss later) and that the earlier we an educate children about safety and critical thinking when using the internet, the better.  Mark Zuckerberg agrees!

Finally, I am teaching a bullying unit to my students and will be beginning the section on cyber bullying next week.  I planned to work on my lessons this weekend.  I am excited to use Twitter and Delicious to find new lesson ideas, but before planning, I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for videos, websites, or anything that you found worked particularly well when teaching about cyber bullying.  Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your week!

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7 Responses to "Parenting the Facebook Generation"

Last year my 15 year old daughter she asked permission to have a FB account and I agreed, with the condition that I be on her list and if I had any issue or question that I get the password. She had no problem with these conditions and we proceeded. So far I have not had any real problems or issues and the only times I had to to speak to her on her postings were a couple of times where she put some of our inlaw family business on facebook blast. (She posted her opinion on FB and my inlaws werent happy on her position, causing some tension between my inlaws and I).

I read her posts daily and post and “like” from time to time, without seeming over bearing. I’m very lucky in that we have an open relationship and if there is anything I’m concerned about I can discuss it with her and we have no conflict in that nor any other respect.

As far as age limits, I do believe under age 12 is too young to have a facebook page, though I know of some kids about 8 who have them. I think this is a parental decision and find it a bit irresponsible of parents to let their kids that young have a facebook page. FB is like any other privilege, such as a cell phone or a video game system, etc. and it should be determined when a child is mature enough to be responsible and have good judgement that they should be allowed to use and post on social networks. But this is my personal opinion. Too many times parents think, “theres nothing wrong with letting have a FB account”, until Heaven forbid, the unthinkable happens and it comes down to “If only”.

Great point about regrets… I stopped having Birthday parties at 10 years old because they were still “innocent” parties at that point. I didn’t want to continue to deal with all the antics of teenage parties so just stopped at a younger age. It’s when they reach the teenage years that they morph into a person that we’re not sure we know any more… then about the time they leave university or college and start their “adult” life, they again resemble that young person you knew. We didn’t restrict or deny our children access to these tools as realized that we really had absolutely no control over their access – our denials would just send the activity underground. Instead we took advantage of the opportunities to have constructive conversations around responsible use. Seems to work for us. We had no experiences with cyberbullying and (hope) our chidren were not engaged in bullying activities. We did have one daughter who was not treated very well by her peers growing up, but as far as I am aware, no online attacks.

Thanks for the replies. That’s an great description of the person’s ‘adult’ life being more similar to their childhood personality. I agree with you that once you start restricting or forbidding activities, it will make the more tempting to some. I think you’re right that parents can take advantage of the opportunity to work with their child when using social media networks. I’m glad to hear that cyber bullying has not been an issue in your household.

Profaleticia – My cousin and I talked for quite some time about the age of her daughter and whether her father should have let her on Facebook. At first, we were both dead-set against it. There are far more other things that a child of nine could be doing other than being on Facebook. However, now that she has an account, her mom is able to monitor it, and it is basically a place for her and her friends to play games and innocently talk to one another when they’re unable to get together. It still blows me away when children pick up the technology that I didn’t have access to until I was in high school and university. They learn quickly, though, and they know nothing other than life WITH cell phones, Facebook, and iPods.

Both of my teens are on FB. Yes, I am their “friend” & I log in as them on occasion. My younger one started asking for FB when he was 12…for about 6 months I told him “no”… finally, I figured he’d probably open an account anyway so I should be aware of it.

There’s a few rules…
they can’t be friends with most adults (we have exceptions)
they don’t use their actual names
they don’t fill in their “info”
they shouldn’t have more than 100 friends, & none that they don’t really know

What I like…
they’re friends with long distance cousins & relatives, their aunts & uncles
can comment as a voice of reason & they’re aware it’s not just mom
watching!
they can see mom’s involvement with friends, get a glimpse of mom as a
real person with friends of her own!
I can get a better idea of what their friends are all about

What I don’t like…
all those stupid games!
chat…that, along with texting, I think takes them out of live life

I also think 13 or 14 is the youngest kids should be on. Whether they have adult friends or not, they have access to too much adult content.

Those are awesome rules! They should be mandated for other parents/children to follow lol! I like the idea that Facebook allows your children to view you in a different light! Thanks for the comment!

Chelsi, if you haven’t seen this on danah’s blog (another important blog for you Reader), take a look at: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/09/23/the-unintended-consequences-of-cyberbullying-rhetoric.html
It recently appeared in the NY Times as an OpEd.

Also, you might want to consider following danah on Twitter – she’s @zephoria – she’s not usually very conversational (I find), but she’s a good person to follow.

Alec,
Thanks for the link! That was a very interesting read, especially because I was just talking to a former student who is now in grade 12 about Facebook and its use in high school. She referred repeatedly to the “drama” that is happening on there involving her peers. Reading about Danah’s definition of drama and how it relates to bullying put my former student’s talk with me into a different light. I’m going to post about our discussion, and Danah’s article, in the near future!
Thanks again!

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