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7 Tips for Creating a Facebook for Kids and Parents "Friendship"

February 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Facebook Friends with your childFriending kids on Facebook helps you to stay connected and keep them safe from danger. But many kids feel trepidation about friending their parents.

Many parents who approve of Facebook for kids like to "friend" their kids to do a little parental monitoring. Doing something annoying or embarrassing might mean that you get unfriended, so use these tips to be a good Facebook friend to your child:

    1. Pick your battles. If you are going to be Facebook friends with your child, it's pretty much guaranteed that you're not going to like everything they post. If you want to remain friends, don't mention the little infractions (their use of certain 4-letter words, for example) and stick to the big issues where their safety is really at stake (cyberbullying, sexting, dangerous friends, or sharing sensitive information.)

      Post to their Wall wisely. Whatever you post on your teen's wall is public, so don't use it to nag, correct, or otherwise embarrass them. And keep in mind that your teen may actually feel most comfortable if you don't post on their Wall at all. Ever.

    2. Don't friend their friends. Resist the urge to populate your friend list with your child's classmates and buddies. Facebook makes it easy to contact the friends of your friends – but it doesn't mean you should. At the very least, always ask your teen before you send a friend request to one of their pals.

    3. Don't post embarrassing photos. Of course that picture of your teen in her pajamas singing into her hairbrush  at home is cute, but she might be mortified if you put it on Facebook. If you are friends, it will show up on her Wall as well as yours, where all of her friends can see it.

    4. Get permission before tagging your child in photos. For safety reasons, posting family photos and tagging people (especially children) should always be done with extreme caution. If you are friends with your child, keep in mind that when you tag them in a photo on Facebook, it shoots people directly to their page – so you should always ask their permission first.

    5. Don't stalk your child. Visit their Wall sparingly, and don't insist on discussing every sentence of it in detail over the dinner table. You won't understand all of the private jokes your teen posts with his friends, and that's okay. Let your conversations be guided by things your child has actually told you in person, not items you happened to see on his Facebook Wall.

    6. Don't criticize your child's friends. As Facebook friends, you'll be able to see not just your child's posts but also the posts made by his or her friends. And even if your teen is a model digital citizen, their friends may do and say lots of things you don't approve of. However hard it may be, bite your tongue when your child's best friend posts a cleavage-baring photo or uses language that burns out your retinas.

Just remember that friending your child doesn't give you automatic access to everything. Your child can change his or her privacy settings to hide certain posts, pictures, and links from you. Some kids are even known to create two Facebook profiles: one that they really use and one that is just a “dummy” profile for their parents' eyes.

The point is, you can friend your child on Facebook to keep in touch and keep an eye on what they're doing, but don't think that it takes the place of regular conversations about their online life. There's no real substitute for face-to-face communication about Internet safety.

-Article Contributed by Jenny Evans

                                     
Tim Woda

Written by Tim Woda

Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert, and a passionate advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda was on the founding team of buySAFE, an Internet trust and safety company, and he started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com. You can follow Tim on Twitter or on his blog.

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