At last count, more than 34 million people were logging on to Facebook each month! As more and more parents join the Facebook revolution, a growing number of Moms and Dads are asking one of the toughest new questions in online etiquette: What do you do when your own child won’t “friend” you on Facebook? That’s a question posed recently by New York Times writer Lisa Belkin – whose own daughter rejected her request to be a Facebook friend. Within days of her column being printed, Belkin received more than 200 responses from parents stuck in the same boat.
At the heart of Belkin’s question is a struggle for parents to understand Facebook itself, because like any social network, it means different things to different people. Some regard Facebook as a diary – where they can post private thoughts about their moods, friends, relationships and breakups. Others see Facebook more like a bunch of friends sitting around a living room. So they don’t mind opening their Facebook “wall” to any person – or parent – who wants to join in. Granted, some kids will happily accept Mom and Dad as Facebook “friends,” then block them from seeing the truly private stuff.
What you and your kids do on Facebook isn’t so private. In fact, studies show that 83% of job recruiters use online social networks to research job applicants because they can usually uncover deep, dark secrets about a potential employee with a simple Google search! So then: How do you respond when your child says “no” to being your Facebook friend? Well, your answer will depend mostly on your child’s age. In Belkin’s research, if a child’s old enough to have a Facebook page, they’re probably old enough to be trusted online. Otherwise, you’d simply say “no” to them using the computer. Still, if your kid is 15 or younger, you probably want the computer in a common room of the house so you can keep an eye on what they’re doing. However, if your child’s in college – or getting ready to move out of the house – most parents agree you shouldn’t take their friendship putdown personally. After all, prying too much into your kid’s private life shows you don’t trust them, and like it or not, most teens feel there’s a stigma attached to having a parent on Facebook. After all, you’re their parent, not their friend, right?