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by K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky
#1) Parents must have the password: The password is the key to unlock the door for full access into your child’s Facebook profile. It must be shared with the parents. And only with the parents! This is essential for accountability and building trust in the relationship as it allows parents to spot check the News Feed and Inbox from time to time. If the password must be changed (and we recommend changing it every 60-90 days for security reasons), parents must know what it is immediately. To us, this is a non-negotiable for kids being on Facebook.
#2) Parents must be full access Friends: Facebook has created a number of ways to help Facebookers protect themselves such as setting up Friend Lists, limiting what certain people can access and hiding certain parts of their profile from view. But when it comes to parents and their kids, not only must the parents and kids be Facebook Friends, but the parents must be able to view as much as possible- all pictures, videos, posts, updates, tags…everything. This creates a check-and-balance and keeps the surprises to a minimum.
#3) Kids are fully responsible for their Facebook: While kids can’t be responsible for the dumb things their Facebook Friends post on their Wall and News Feed, your kids must be responsible for anything posted from their own profile. If they leave a public place and kept their Facebook logged on and somebody posts something acting like your kid (regardless if it’s inappropriate or not), your kid is responsible for it. If they allow a friend to use their Facebook profile to send messages out to people, your kid is responsible for it. Once something is posted, it can never be permanently removed. Hopefully this helps them think twice (or a third or fourth time) about allowing someone else to borrow their identity for a little while.
#4) Watch what is said because others are watching: What your kid posts is seen by everyone they’re friends with: family, coaches, youth leaders, teachers, family friends, neighbors and more. And if commented on by a Facebook Friend, all their Friends may see that too. So watch what is said: no swearing, no threats, and no innuendos. And watch who is talked about: no complaining about parents, no putting down siblings, no publicizing family spats. A good rule of thumb when posting anything is to ask, “What would happen if what I’m posting was posted on the Google home page for everyone to see?”
#5) Friend real people that are really known: Facebook is about connecting and reconnecting with people who are part of one’s past or present reality. There is no contest or award for “who can get the most Facebook Friends.” Avoid Friending people just because others have Friended them. Also, don’t Friend strangers. And don’t raid the parents’ Friends either. The key question to ask when Friending or considering a Friend Request is, “do I really trust this person to see the updates, the pictures and the information I post and not do something bad with them?”
#6) Keep personal information private: Kids are an open book and much more naïve about the world. There are real bad people in the world. Some bad people are using Facebook for bad purposes. Said bad people are hacking Facebook accounts to gain access to people’s private information and that of their Facebook Friends. So, to be as safe as possible, don’t post personal information on Facebook (physical address, full birth date, place of employment, etc). Also, avoid updates such as, “Parents are gone. I’m home alone and bored,” or “Our family is gone on vacation for three weeks!” These kinds of updates can invite bad people to do bad things to a family member or the family’s home.
#7) If in doubt, ask the parents: Participating in an online social network opens up all kinds of new situations and scenarios for people to deal with. And sometimes the answer isn’t quite so clear. In some cases, the “right” solution can feel awkward or put you in a difficult place. What we have come to discover is that adults don’t always know how to deal with Facebook-related issues, how then can we expect our teenage kids to deal with them and do it correctly? Kids need a safe place to turn if a Facebook Friend is crossing a line, if an uncomfortable situation arises, or if they don’t know how to respond to a distressing message. That safe place should be their parents.
K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky (a.k.a. The Social Media Couple) are nationally-recognized specialists in social media and relationships. They write and speak to help people balance technology and their relationships, use common sense and set healthy guard rails for their marriages, families and relationships in this social media age. They are the authors of Facebook and Your Marriage (2010) and have co-written several articles on the topic. Find their articles, tools and tips at SocialMediaCouple.com. The Krafskys live in the foothills of Washington’s Cascade Mountains with their four children.
Copyright © 2010 K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky - Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper source citation.