While at a conference dinner a couple of years ago at the Fairmont Lake Louise in Alberta, I kicked off a conversation about Facebook. One woman explained that her teenage kids were on the social networking site, but when she signed up, they refused her friend requests.
Like any mothers, she was hurt by the rejection, and became concerned about what her children were actually doing on Facebook. After a few weeks of negotiations, mom came up with an idea: since all of her kids and their friends loved the family's dog, she created an account for the pet. Her son and daughter agreed they would accept a request from the pooch as long as "the dog" never told their social circles that mom was actually behind the connected canine.
This story reminds me how difficult it can be for families to come to common ground over something like social networking. Usually, parents want to ensure their kids are keeping their lives private and information about themselves safe; kids want to ensure their keeping their lives private, too, but from their parents.
What parents need to tell their kids about Facebook
- Your online reputation travels with you for life. Be smart. Keep racy photos off the site altogether and avoid the temptation to upload sexy profile photos. And yes, your employer at the grocery store or restaurant or whatever -- even your neighbour -- may search for your profile.
- Protect all your contact information and never post your home address or phone number on Facebook. In fact, don't post them anywhere online.
- What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook. Watch what you say in your status updates and keep them private so you don't end up sharing intimate thoughts with people you don't want to. To get a sense of how public some of these updates are, just spend a few minutes on YourOpenBook.
- Your friends aren't always your friends. While it's great that you have a big network on Facebook, just because someone is a friend on your Facebook page doesn't mean they should be able to know everything about you. Police in Nova Scotia ran a test in September: they created fake profiles and friended 300 teens ages 12-17. Only two denied friend requests.
- Think before you post, comment, like, and share. Aside from protecting your own privacy, you should also be sensitive about your family's and friend's privacy too.
What kids need to tell their parents about Facebook
- You don't really understand how Facebook works, so please learn more before you assume I'm using it wrong.
- Super-logoff and whitewalling are new Facebook habits that are allowing us to control who has access to our information and how much of it shows up on Facebook. A super log-off means that I deactivate my account, so that no one can access my information until I re-activate my account when I'm online again. Whitewalling means that I remove every post, update, link, or comment as soon as I'm done sharing it, so there is no history of my interactions.
- Although it may seem like all we're doing on Facebook is chatting, we also use the site to play games, research things, and learn about what's going on in the world. It's our hangout, like beside the lockers in school.
- We are use Facebook to meet up with friends we already have, not to connect with strangers.
- If you have to be my Facebook friend, please don't comment on everything I do. If you have something to say about what I post, let's take the conversation offline so you don't embarrass me. Parents should be seen...