From our counselor: Adolescents are impulsive in their actions, focused on connecting to peers and taking risks. Thank goodness! Otherwise they would never have the courage to face the very scary world we live in and eventually leave home. The challenge is that technology feeds all three of these, and the results are not always conducive to a healthy, happy childhood.
Today, when kids turn 13, it’s not just about being a teenager: it’s about Facebook. The Facebook policy requires users to be 13, and signing up for an account, with all the connectedness it offers, might be equivalent to the Quinciñera or getting to vote.
This is where you (the adults) come in. Just as we don’t give them the keys to the car and wish them luck on the highway, we wouldn’t give them access to the internet without so much as a couple hours behind the wheel.
So as a parent (or teacher), how do you talk to your kid (student) about using facebook?
- Know it yourself – have a facebook page. The best way to understand the experience is to be a part of it. If you kid loved lacrosse, you would probably pick up a stick or watch a couple games just to get a sense of it. Friend your kid. DON’T POST ON THEIR WALL.
- Go through the account settings. I think of these as what others see about me. There are a lot of settings – you don’t have to do it all at once.
- Go through the privacy settings. I think of these as who sees what I post. There are a lot of settings – you don’t have to do it all at once.
- Show your child how to use the “View As” feature to see how their profile appears to the public or to their friends.
My mantra is that everything you share is PERMANENT & PUBLIC. Even on my personal account, I pretend my boss is looking over my shoulder. You never know who might see it.
Facebook is an amazing tool for connecting with friends and family across time and space. I play Scrabble against my mother who lives very far away, and it helps me feel more connected to her. On the other, if it becomes a world absent of adult guidance, like teenage drivers without navigation, it can become a tragic pile up of hurt feelings, broken friendships, and life-haunting videos from that one party in 8th grade.
Learning to manage social networks is a skill that kids need to be taught.
The first time I sat in the driver’s seat of my mom’s Pontiac Grand Am. It was the exhilarating taste of freedom. My mom worried that I would drive with the music too loud with my friends or not look all directions in the intersection. I was impulsive, peer-driven, and ignorant of the risks, but she sat next to me.
Maybe that’s what signing in to Facebook feels like. Same teenagers, different technology.