I'm friends with our three oldest children on Facebook, and often find myself hesitating before I post a comment on their public "wall." If I were a teenager, would I want one of my parents leaving quips on my page? Will something I write end up as fodder for some other kid to use against them?
The conundrum lead me to think about teens and online privacy in general, and I took the topic to the readers at Boston.com via the Child Caring blog:
I was hanging out on Facebook the other night, browsing through my friends' profiles and leaving comments here and there, when I noticed that my oldest daughter's status update had changed from something about volleyball practice to something about having to write several haiku for English class. I was about to add a comment about how I like to write haiku, but I froze: Wouldn't my liking that type of poetry make it automatically unhip to her and her friends? And also: If I were 15, would I really want my step mom posting public notes to me about poetry?
When our older kids wanted to set up Facebook accounts, my husband and I -- and their mom and step dad -- set up accounts of our own. The kids were allowed to be part of the social-networking site as long as they shared their passwords with us and "friended" us -- that is, added us to the list of people who could see their private profiles.
Their "friends" lists grew, but I was surprised to notice that mine grew more quickly than theirs. My old classmates from middle school, high school, and college were on there, too, and our mini reunions took place at all odd hours. And if unhip, old, boring, parents like me are socializing online in the middle of the night, you can bet our teenagers are doing it, too.
If you're not on Facebook, you probably should be -- if only to check and see if your kids are, and keep tabs on whom they're friends with. I admit that I don't "friend" my teens' friends as often as their mom does, but that's OK -- when you have four parents who love you and want to keep you safe, it's enough to know that at least half of them are always monitoring.
Even though we're keeping an eye on our kids and their friends because we want to make sure they're safe, it does bring up a few important questions: Where do you draw the line -- using the same access that any Facebook friend would have? Reading their email? Rigging the computer to record everything they do?
How much privacy should a teenager have online?