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Online embarrassment

Mom, keep your 'couch Olympics' off Facebook Add to ...

Erini Shields had a sneaking suspicion her single mom, Donna, had started dating when the 54-year-old mentioned going out for motorcycle rides with a male friend.

Her thoughts were confirmed last Tuesday when one of her mother's Facebook status updates caught her eye.

What an awesome ride on the harley! Such a beautiful day. Even had time for some couch olympics....Erin, don't read that last part :)

The younger Ms. Shields, who lives in Chicago, expressed her horror through her blog and Twitter account moments later:

GROSS! GROSSGROSSGROSS!!! mom's talking about "couch olympics" with her new boyfriend on facebook!! EWEWEW EEEWWWWWW!!!!!

When Facebook opened its gates to anyone over the age of 13 in 2006, teens and twentysomethings were quick to complain about friend requests from their parents. Suddenly, mom and dad had access to a portal of partying that was originally designed for the college crowd - and they saw it is another way to voice their disapproval.

But the tables have turned.

Share your embarrassing FB stories Have your parents made you cringe on Facebook? Or maybe your kids' status updates are too much for you to take?

Now it's young people who gripe about what their elders are doing, as parents post updates about sex and drinking, leave inappropriate wall posts and broadcast results of explicit quizzes.

The surge in over sharing is well-documented on the site myparentsjoinedfacebook.com, a gallery of screen captures of cringe-worthy parental activity that gets submissions daily.

One user shared results of a "What sex position fits you best?" quiz taken by both mother and stepfather and broadcast through Facebook newsfeed. Another was mortified to find his father listed "Boobs" as one of the "Five things that always cheer me up."

Erika Brooks Adickman, who co-founded myparentsjoinedfacebook.com in January with her friend Jeanne Leitenberg, said many parents use Facebook to prove "that they still got it." But in their efforts to feel young again, parents must be mindful about which stories they share with whom online, experts say. Children and colleagues should not have access to the same information that friends do.

"It's fine for friends to talk about their sex life with friends, but it blurs the line for the child to know that much about it," says Michael Popkin, an Atlanta-based parenting author.

Even if their children are adults, parents shouldn't post things on Facebook they wouldn't say to their child in person, adds U.K.-based parenting expert Sarah Newton, author of Help! My Teenager Is an Alien: The Everyday Situation Guide for Parents .

"We could be exposing our child to something that isn't even in their realm of thinking."

The elder Ms. Shields, who lives in Muncie, Ind., acknowledges she would never discuss intimate details of her relationships with her daughter on the phone.

"It was more because it was on Facebook," she explains. "It might be embarrassing [to Erini]because 'my mom said this' but it's not going to hurt or damage her." But as her daughter says, "I'm happy my mom's happy, but sometimes there's some things you don't want to know about your parent."

Twenty-year-old Jordan Zimlich, a contributor to myparentsjoinedfacebook.com, appreciates that the social-networking site allows her 42-year-old mother, Michelle Crenshaw, to "feel like she's in high school again."

But it went too far when Ms. Crenshaw posted a sassy 2:30 a.m. status update after a wild night at the Kansas Country Stampede:

i am "fuckered" up, LOL! blame it on the aaaaaalcohol! LOL!

Ms. Zimlich says she was "mildly horrified" when she saw the post.

"I think the alcohol kind of unleashed it - she definitely doesn't talk like that on a day to day basis," she says. "The fact that it was a quote from that [Jamie Foxx and T-Pain]song, it was a little embarrassing."

Part of the problem rests in the fact that some parents have a hard time keeping up with the site's evolving privacy settings. They may post certain material with a limited audience in mind, but a failure to understand the ins and outs means they end up broadcasting racy content to their entire friends list - kids, included.

It is the top issue that Las Vegas-based Linda Fogg Phillips tackles in the Facebook for Parents course she teaches with her brother, a Stanford University professor.

She says she's met countless parents who try to send a friend a private message but instead post a very public note to his or her wall.

"If they go blindly, yeah, they're going to make critical errors thinking something's private and then it goes out to everyone on their page."

For example, another mortified myparentsjoinedfacebook.com contributor submitted this wall post that was no doubt meant to be a private message, written by Pamela, the mother, to Tim, the father:

"Baby...I took one of those stupid quizzes on facebook....it said I 'will take you to the moon in bed'......wanna go to the moon with me?"

And a user called Lorezno scolded his mother with the comment "ew, mom. ew" after she took the quiz "Your Female Body Part," resulting in the answer "Chest" appearing on all her friend's news feeds - along with a close-up shot of a woman's cleavage.

"Parents do not understand that when you're done taking a quiz of what martini you are, what sex position you are, you have the option of choosing not to invite every one on your list to take it too," Ms. Brooks Adickman says with a laugh.

Facebook for the 'rents

Don't let the whole world check out your page

Even if you keep it tame, your kid's most determined frenemies could mine your page for yo-mama joke gold. Under Settings, choose Privacy Settings, and set everything to Only Friends. That will make your page visible only to your immediate network.

Speaking of friends

Don't friend your children's friends. You don't need to know that much about them, and they don't want to know that much about you.

Prune your photo tags

OK, you got a little tipsy on Friday and somebody put up a damning picture. You can't control that. But you can untag that photo so that a search for your name doesn't turn it up. It's as easy as clicking on the words "remove tag" underneath the picture.

Don't send the 'What Sex Position Am I?' quiz to everybody

Facebook quizzes are good times, true. You don't have to give them up. Just don't share the results with all of your friends. Be selective about who you forward results to.

Cut out the innuendo

Everybody knows what "had a fun morning with the hubby" means. Especially your now scarred-for-life children.

Watch what you say

Remember that wall posts are not private. All of a person's friends can see them. So no leaving sappy notes or messages about acne treatments on your kid's page. And don't share something on Facebook with your child that you wouldn't talk about in person.


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