Is your child at the age where they are asking and you are considering allowing them to have a Facebook account? Does the idea give you hives? It should. I am years into the Facebook game and it is still a part time job to keep up with my teens Facebook accounts.
Just when you think they have grown up and you can relax your snooping eyes, they post something negative about a teacher because they don’t like the grade they received. True. Story.
I was sitting at a restaurant at 8:00 a.m. one morning last year and I got a text from my son’s step mom to check his wall. I was horrified by what I saw. I didn’t have the password with me and it took about 20 minutes of constant phone calls to rouse him from his teeage slumber. I was sweating profusely and panicking the entire 20 minutes. If a teacher or principle had seen this it would have absolutely meant suspension for him. Finally, he answered and I hissed like a viper into the phone to, “get that stupid moronic post off of his Facebook page before I shut the entire thing down. And we will so be talking about this later.” Then? I ordered a Bloody Mary.
Thankfully no one that mattered saw that post. But it was close. No matter how many times we cover it in this house, there are screw ups. Their teenage brains just aren’t smart enough to handle it all. That is why it is important for you to be on top of it.
Here are some guidelines that I have used over the years. While they clearly haven’t prevented all mishaps, they have prevented a lot. It is important that you keep a diligent eye on any social media your child is using. And by diligent eye I mean you need don your best spy gear and devote daily time to snooping around their online presence. It is your job to not only keep them safe online, but to prevent a college or future employer from finding something that would prevent a favorable impression of your child.
Ready. Set. Facebook.
You MUST have the password. This isn’t an option. If there is ever any trouble you will need this to fix it. See example above.
They MUST friend you on Facebook. This way you can see all that is happening in their world. This is not enough protection, so make sure you have their password as stated above. A lot of “privacy” happens in their messaging. You can check their messages if you have the coveted password. And you should. Often.
They are not allowed to friend a single person that they do not personally know. While this may seem obvious, here is what happens. They friend a friend’s friend and then they gain access to another friend they friend that friend’s friend of a friend’s friend and so on until they are somehow unknowingly friends with a child molester in another country who is offering them a plane ticket. (This is hard to manage as they hit the high school years but is extremely important when they are younger.)
Go through their set up with them and make sure all of the privacy options on Facebook have been checked appropriately. You have to individually decide who can see photos, wall posts, locations, etc. I will cover this at length next week and give you my recommended settings for each category.
Facebook has a program called Places. It allows you to check in anyplace you go. While this technically falls under the above category of Privacy Settings, I feel this deserves it’s own mention because of it’s importance. Disable this on your child’s Facebook. I am sure I don’t have to explain why you do not want your child’s constant whereabouts known. You must also disable the feature that allows your child to be checked in someplace by a friend.
They are never to write anything negative about another person. PERIOD. Not even trying to be humorous. It isn’t. It is rude and is a reflection of their character. This is very tough to manage with boys because by nature they sucker punch each other verbally for sport.
No curse words. It may seem cool to be a cursing teen, I get it. I LOVE to curse and always have. But? Put it in writing on a Facebook wall and it makes them look classless and uneducated. NEVER put it in writing. Colleges, coaches, principles, etc. are one degree of separation from their Facebook.
No APPS. NONE. Period. These silly little games open them up to all sorts of privacy issues. Facebook privacy settings do not apply to these apps. Not to mention some are viruses waiting to destroy your computer.
You need to go over all of this with your child at length. Explain stranger danger again as if they were three years old. It is kind of the same concept.
Have the conversation that EVERYONE FOREVER will see anything they post.
Put all of the rules in writing and everyone signs the Facebook Contract.
I will say it one more time. CREEP THEIR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT. It is not a place they can navigate without your guidance. They will need you to constantly nudge them in the right direction. I was very clear with my kids that I would be looking and that they would have to accept that if they wanted a Facebook account. The reluctantly agreed and let me just tell you, I haven’t had to delete things only once or twice. It happens often.
While this all sounds daunting, these are important tools that your child will need when they leave the nest. Like driving, you want them to do it when you can still help and monitor the process.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Next week I will do a tutorial on privacy settings and software designed to help you track their online whereabouts. No matter how tricky they might get. Check back in.