A 2010 survey by Retrevo found that almost half of parents are Facebook friends with their children, a subject that most parents and children have strong feelings about one way or the other. Many parents will use parental controls or parental monitoring for Facebook for kids.
Some parents make two-way “friending” an absolute requirement for their social-networking kids to keep their Facebook accounts. Parents at the other end of the spectrum have declined their kids' friend requests, believing that parents and children should never be Facebook friends at all.
Are you Facebook friends with your kids?
Most parents I know want to friend their kids online. It not only gives them a sense that they can keep their kids safe from cyber danger, but it helps them stay in the loop of their kid's world in general. Many parents say Facebook is the only way they know what's going on in their teen's life at all. (Just keep in mind that being “friends” doesn't mean you can see everything they're posting – Facebook users still have the ability to hide information from selected friends.)
But plenty of parents have strong feelings about the importance of not friending your kids. They may be leery about letting their own kids in on their conversations with their other adult friends; or they may not want to find out everything there is to know about their teen's inner life. (If you do friend your child, be prepared: you will learn a lot about them and you certainly won't like everything you see.)
One alternative to friending your child might be to require them to provide you with the working password to their account – which you will only ever use if you have reason to believe they're in danger.
And what about kids? It of course depends on the age of the child and your offline relationship with them, but many teens don't like the perceived invasion of privacy. And if they are posting every little thought and feeling they have during the day, they may have a point: would you have willingly handed over your personal diary to your parents when you were 15 years old?
Of course, this is 2012 and we're not talking about a paper-and-ink journal hidden under your child's mattress. Whatever teens send out into cyberspace stays there, and it can do permanent damage to them, their reputations, their safety, and the reputations and safety of other people.
The important thing is not so much friending your child, but that you have regular conversations about Internet safety in general (what's okay/not okay to post, sexting, cyberbullying) and what your kids are doing when they go online. Whether that includes being Facebook friends depends on you and your child.
-Article Contributed by Jenny Evans