Your friends are on it, your kids are on it, and now you’ve caved and joined Facebook. With 2 billion users, the website once dominated by college students has gained popularity with middle schoolers, the middle-aged, and everyone in between. But parents may be a bit concerned about how to best use Facebook themselves, and about how their children are using it. There are even classes and Web sites (commonsensemedia.org) dedicated to teaching parents about Facebook. So how can you make the most out of the social networking site while ensuring it’s a safe place for your children?
Are We Friends?
Some kids won’t mind their parents being on Facebook. They might even think you’re cool! But a lot of children will feel that you joining “their” social networking site is an invasion of privacy. While you might want to keep an eye on your children’s activity on the site, it’s better to talk to them about what they do there rather than spying on them.
Don’t be offended if your kids don’t want to “friend you” on Facebook — it’s not so different from when they get to the age where they don’t want to be seen with you at the mall. If you’re concerned about your younger children using Facebook, you might make a rule that they have to be your friend, with conditions so they feel their privacy is still respected.
Learning the Ropes
If you’re a bit unsure of how Facebook works, ask your child for a tutorial. On the one hand, he or she might be reluctant to show you some of the more advanced features of the site, but on the other they may be excited to teach Mom or Dad something new. Once you’ve grasped the basics, you should be more comfortable clicking around the site and learning the rest of the features.
Remember, while you can see what your kids are doing on Facebook, they can see what you’re doing as well. Take a moment to reflect on whether you really want your children to read that status update or see the results of the latest quiz you’ve taken. Facebook does have a privacy setting that allows users to give certain friends only limited access to their profile. You can also control who has access to your posts individually.
Facebook’s Terms of Service
Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old to register an account. If your child is under 13 and has a Facebook account, you may want to have it disabled. This can be done by deleting the account, blocking the site, or contacting Facebook’s support to inform them of an underage user. Remember to stress that you aren’t punishing your child, but that it’s important that he or she follow the site’s rules for her own safety.
Many Facebook users forget that what they post isn’t visible to just their friends. Not only can photos and messages be seen by other Facebook users, but Facebook reserves the right to syndicate all “intellectual property” posted to its site to third parties. When you sign up for Facebook, you agree that the photos and other writings you post can be used by third parties, such as websites, newspapers, and magazines, without asking you first.
For more information, visit Facebook’s terms of service.