Here’s how you can keep kids safe on the internet without a Facebook ban.
Last week, my 16-year-old niece signed up for Facebook (FB), as an 18-year-old. Bad enough, I thought. But no, there’s more. The next thing I know, she had listed herself as ‘single’ and ‘interested in’ men. Should I be the wet-blanket and make her quit FB or get over it, let her keep her account and stalk her?
One school of thought I consulted was of the opinion that rather than crack down on the child’s FB forays, this could be a golden opportunity to help her begin understanding how to safely navigate social networks, in particular, and the web in general.
Like it or not, if you’re a grown-up reading this, you are going to have to face up to the fact that FB is an important piece of virtual real estate that most kids and very many young adults are eager to reside in. In such a situation, the only thing you should be looking to do is allow your teenage daughter (daughters, especially) to be a part of this online community with the understanding that there are some general guidelines and rules of conduct that you expect her to follow (which you should monitor from time to time without her knowledge).
For this to work well, you’ll have to set down simple policies that will help her learn who she should—and shouldn’t—be ‘friending’ online. (It, of course, helps to know the meaning of terms like ‘friending’.) The one rule I urge parents to follow when it comes to ‘friending requests’ that come their child’s way is this: your daughter’s FB friend should not be much older than her and if he is, he needs to be friends with you too. And, it’ll help if you are on FB and are familiar with the world your child is exploring.
One other thing. Don’t be too upset if your daughter doesn’t want to befriend you on FB. It’s normal for a teen to behave like this towards one’s parents. Still, you’ve got to somehow try and get on her ‘friend’ list. For this to happen, though, you have to first be ‘friends’ with your child in the real world.