When my son was almost 13, he wanted to join Facebook. Before allowing it, I signed up myself in order to understand how it worked and to provide some guidance related to his use of the social network phenomenon.
Once I gained a basic understanding, I allowed him to sign up for Facebook subject to some basic guidelines which have evolved over the past two years into the following:
- I must be your Facebook “friend” and you cannot block me.
- I must know your password.
- You must have the maximum privacy settings that "only friends" can read your information, or see your photos and wall. Your privacy settings must be checked frequently.
- You may not include our home address or any phone numbers on your
- You may not "friend" anyone you don't know personally (in the real world) and must be able to tell me how you know that person.
- Profanity is prohibited. If you use it and I see it, it will be removed immediately.
- Remember that your grandparents are among your Facebook friends so don’t
write anything you wouldn’t want them to see and delete any offensive language by friends on your wall.
- Since I’m the parent, I’ll update the rules as needed.
These limits have worked well for us. I imagine some kids might not need rules while others might need more rigid ones.
As parents, we cannot make that decision, however, without first having a basic understanding of the technology, which is evolving almost faster than we can keep up with it. I suspect that by the time they’re in high school, today’s sixth graders will be using some new must-have technology that hasn’t been invented yet.
After about two years, when I thought I’d mastered this particular parenting challenge, my darling teen hit me with, "I'll bet you don't even know how to tweet, do you, mom?'"