Facing Facebook with Tweens and Teens

troubled teen help“Everybody’s doing it!” These words strike terror into the hearts of most parents. Unfortunately, in the case of Facebook, it’s essentially the truth. Facebook pages can be about everything from the family dog to slices of pizza.

While Facebook is an excellent social networking tool and has facilitated the rekindling of many a friendship, it has also been the setting of vicious bullying and stalking attacks. Before setting up a Facebook page for your teen or tween, have a serious conversation about the rules and limits that you will be setting.

Changing Technology

Facebook currently prohibits those under 13 from having a Facebook page. Many parents ignore this rule and adjust their children’s ages accordingly to get around it. Because of the willingness to bend the rules and the influx of younger children with Facebook accounts, Facebook is planning to remove the rule and is developing technology to provide child-friendly accounts linked to their parents’ accounts for easier monitoring and intervention. This means that even more kids will soon have accounts.

Teaching “Netiquette”

If your kids want to be on Facebook, they will absolutely have to learn the basics of Internet etiquette, often referred to as “netiquette.” These basics include:

  • Don’t “flame” someone or be insulting online. There are real people behind those avatars.
  • Never, ever give out your personal information, including your address, phone number and passwords.
  • Keep it clean. Never say anything that you wouldn’t want traced back to you or you wouldn’t want your parents to see.
  • Remember that once something is online, there will be a permanent record of it. Never post images that show you in a compromising position. It could come back to haunt you later in life.

Cyber-Bullying and Stalking

Bullying has become a huge problem, and Facebook is a prominent tool for cyber bullies to use. There have been incidents of cyber bullying that ended in tragedy, and the issue has been presented on popular shows like “Glee.” Cyber bullying occurs when cruel messages and rumors are sent to the victim or spread throughout the network of people who know the victim. If your child is the victim of cyber bullying or sees cyber-bullying happening to another child, he or she should immediately report it to an adult.

Stalking is another serious online concern. While safe practices can prevent most instances, a determined stalker will find other ways to obtain your child’s address and more. A good-sense rule for your kids is to only friend people on Facebook whom you know in real life.

Monitoring Facebook

Many parents require their children to be their Facebook friends as a condition of having the account. While this can head off some situations, it isn’t difficult for computer-savvy kids to figure out how to screen their posts. Parental control software is available that can make monitoring easier. Some software programs prevent your child from using the computer after certain hours and can screen for certain words. Other guidelines set by parents include requiring their child to use Facebook on a computer in a public area of the house and provide the parents with their account name and password.

Ultimately, setting limits and deciding on consequences for not following the rules is your responsibility as a parent. Facebook is a huge community, but as long as your child follows the rules, he or she should be safe.


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