Online dilemma: Should you "friend" your teen on facebook?
Some months ago, I wrote an article about moms joining Facebook to reconnect with old friends. At the end of the piece, I said: "It's fine to be on Facebook, but your kids are not your friends, and they don't want to be your Facebook friend. Remember how you used to shoo them away from the table when you were hanging out with your girlfriends and you wanted to talk about anything important? That's how they feel."
And boy oh boy, you should have seen the comments I got. Apparently, everyone in the world thinks parents and teens should be Facebook friends -- except me.
My position evolved like this: I joined Facebook one day, and within 90 seconds, my parents wanted to friend me. I am a 33-year-old mom of five, but in my head, I am19 years old and super cool. And I just couldn't get behind the idea of having my parents read and comment on my status updates, seeing comments my friends -- the ones who are my age -- made, and so on. So I decided that parents and kids should maintain some distance in their relationships.
The other side of the story.
Even if I do think of myself as a 19-year-old, I am still mom to a gaggle of kids, including a 10-year-old who desperately wants to be on Facebook. And of course I say no (Facebook's Terms of Service prohibits anyone under 13 from having an account), but if I ever decide to allow her to have an account, will I be her friend?
Oy. It's a tough question to answer. On the one hand, there's the opportunity to see a whole different side of my kid. What she chooses to put in her status updates, what she shares about herself -- it's fascinating. I learn a lot just by sitting quietly in the front seat during carpool, so imagine the doors I could open via a few windows on my computer!
But there's a flip side. By "friending" my daughter, I'm giving her access to a part of my own world. And although I love my daughter dearly, at the end of the day, I'm her mom, not her friend. And I have to make some effort to maintain the illusion that I walk on water, or at least drink water instead of wine.
If your kids are even mildly technically savvy -- or if they have any access to other teens -- they will quickly figure out how to mess around with Facebook's privacy settings. So even if you're "friends," they can still hide a lot of information from you. So don't think that you've gained access to their inner circle and are now privy to all their secrets.
I know, we tell our kids that can come to us with anything, they can tell us everything, just talk to us. But some of their secrets are completely insignificant to anyone not in high school. Do you really need to know who's crushing, who's hot, who's not, and whatever else the kids are talking about? Really?
I have to stand by my original statement. My kids don't need me as a friend. They have enough friends. I'm their mom, and that's really the role I want to play. Apparently, I'm in the minority. But I'm okay with that.