Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hey Rookie, Don't Forget the Facebook Rules

You know you’re a rookie mom when you. . .

Last month in Driving Online Without a License, I shared the research project that my 13 year old daughter was required to complete in order to open her own Facebook account.  Along with the successful completion of the project, there were guidelines, or online rules, in which she was to follow.  All went well at first.  She was thrilled to have her project accepted and willing to abide by the rules.  However, I had no idea how many more expectations needed to be in place.

One guideline I set for Facebook was to limit the number of friends she accepted.  She was o.k. with this regulation.  She felt that friend collecting was a ridiculous attempt to look popular.  Agreed.  So, we established that she should limit her accepted friend requests to those that came from real friends.  I was content that we were in accord—mother and teen daughter in harmony, a blessing.

Her list of friends has increased to the count of 224.  It is difficult for me to believe that she knows this many people.  However, I failed to define what “knowing” really means.  And I failed to establish a number limit which I now think should be 50.  

50 friends are plenty to network with when one is 13 years old. Management of who sees what can be overwhelming.  I do not feel my daughter needs to be placed in a situation where she is no longer in control of who has access to her personal thoughts and information--material that can be re-shared by people she knows not well enough to trust, communication that can be misconstrued to mean something other than what was intended.

I also chose not to set an age limit on friends because there are adults I feel that are o.k. on Facebook, like parents of friends, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  However, one day I was spot-checking her computer (a task I will go over in a future blog post) and noticed that displayed in her messages was a profile picture of a young man that looked older than her typical friends.  He looked like someone in high school.  I think it was the fact that he had his arm wrapped around this year’s Homecoming Queen.

I do not usually read her messages.  I feel that would be an invasion of privacy.  I simply look down the row of profile photos displayed in the inbox to see with whom she’s been interacting.  But this one I read.  

The message was innocent from the point of view of a 13 year old.  From the point of view of the mother of a 13 year old girl it was manipulative.  And he gave her his number—just in case she "ever wanted to talk."

I was so mad.  Mad at him. Mostly mad at myself for not setting a boundary that needed to be set:  No private communication with anyone more than two years older.

Communicating with my daughter about this was tricky.  I had to tell her I read the message.  Whoa, the anger she displayed.  But, I understood.  I imagine she thought I read all of her messages. 

I had to explain that a senior in high school should not be privately communicating with a 13 year old female.  The dangers of girls with older boys are real.    She heard, “You were wrong for communicating with him and he is the Big Bad Wolf.”

By the end of the conversation, which to me felt like was happening in slow motion, she understood that she did nothing wrong.  The guideline for the age limit of who she has private communication with was set.  But I could have avoided causing her to feel as if she had done something wrong by setting the age restriction earlier—before she got onto Facebook.  I feel badly that my oversight caused her pain.  

That evening she posted as a status update something like I hate 8th Grade.   I assume it was due to how she was feeling about our conversation, the new Facebook rule, or how difficult it is to grow up.  I was not alarmed by her update. 


Because it didn’t say, “I hate 8th grade and my mom is mean and I can no longer privately speak to John Doe.”  So, the research project complete with presentations and discussions about appropriate online behavior has worked.  But I’m definitely a rookie mom at this.  I am new to navigating as a rule maker and protector of my daughter through the world of social media—a place she needs to be in order to socialize, and a place I want her to  be while she is at home, in my care, and receiving my support.

She has taken a one month sabbatical from Facebook because she has the lead in the school musical and wants no distractions as she prepares.  I am the one that shared the article that suggests a social media break as a New Year’s resolution, but it was her decision to remove it from her plate.  To show my support, I too am on a one month sabbatical from Facebook
When we return, I plan to assist her in organizing her 224 friends into lists and possibly cutting the number down to 50.  This will teach her more about navigating Facebook appropriately and will offer me an opportunity to get to know her contacts.

Now onto the task that is Google Plus.  I understand that users can protect their privacy by creating circles.  But yesterday I noticed a gentleman--whose profile picture displays a moment in time when he decided to lick his shoe--has added me to his “acquaintances” circle. 

Is there any way to prevent others from adding me to their circles?  And who will want to add my 13 year old daughter to theirs?



  1. Oh how I feel your pain! And your daughter's! We've all been there (granted, without FB, Google + and all that). The need to be on top of the game, to be socially accepted, to be 'cool.' Things that upon hindsight years later, are so obviously not important and yet seemed so crucial at the time.

    My daughter's seven. So I'm not there... yet. But clearly, this is something that I will have to deal with sooner or later. I think the way you handled the whole thing was amazing. Don't blame yourself for not being able to anticipate everything. We didn't grow up with FB and all these social media stuff. You were simply doing the best you could, and you did it beautifully.

    As with any other activities, it's always a good idea to be on the cautious side. Constantly overseeing her account etc is a must, no matter how much our kids complain about their 'privacy.' My mother used to tell me, as long as I was still living in her house and living with her money, I was subject to her rules. I used to hate it, but now that I'm a mother, I think she is so, so right! ;)

  2. I love the idea of a research project before giving access to Facebook. Brilliant! I think I may have to steal that one in 3 years (if FB is even still around then).

  3. @Jacki I need to create a new updated project with some updates because of how fast everything changes. Glad you like the idea!

    @Sweaty Thanks for the encouragement. I can be hard on myself and appreciated the reminder that I can't anticipate everything. My goal is to share these stories so that Mom's like you, with younger daughters, have some idea of what to expect when parenting "online".

  4. Good daughter is only 5 but not looking forward to these kinds of topics coming up. My friends and I were never this involved in the internet and technology when we were younger. Crazy the changes with each generation! I am now following your blog and would love if you would return the favor @

  5. Oh, goodness. I do not look forward to the day when I have to deal with my kids and social media. I had three kids in three years, so high school should be lots of fun! ;) Visiting from Mama Kat's!

  6. oh yes..the world is changing so much..and I am coming to know that privacy is a thing of the 1980! the whole Facebook, twitter,etc is really out of control..and everybody does do it! I hear you! i am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can!

  7. @Jennifer Hi! Thanks for coming over from Mama Kat's! I hope to share enough to help the mom's who have younger kids. . .giving you a heads up as I fumble around with parenting in the digital age ;) ! Who knows, maybe we can become experts if we share ideas!

    @momto8 I miss the 80's. I noticed that the clothes are resurfacing. Don't think we can go back in the case of tech, though! Thanks for coming by Sperk*! Following.

    @Dianna Good morning. Looking forward to checking out RuffledReatherShoppe. Name is fitting in the case of how I feel about parenting in the digital world!

  8. I don't want to even think about what i'll have to do by the time my boys are old enough for this sort of thing.

    For google +, I do like the idea of circles, but it does seem like anyone can add you... I think you can then go in and block, but I get a lot of spammy type people and it seems too time-intensive to have to deal with that.

  9. I love how you didn't overreact to her status update. Sometimes, we glean more from starting conversations through a third party (in this instance, FB) and wow, the talks we can have. I also adore you for setting boundaries/guidelines and talking to her after you'd read the message. I don't believe children should expect (or receive) 100% control over their social media use be it FB, texts, email. I am not a snooper, but I am a protector and I do sometimes check to make sure no one is literally showing their ass or saying inappropriate things (they sometimes don't get that their online personas can/will follow them forever and ever amen).

    My oldest daughter is only 11, but she has friends her age with FB accounts. I've looked at a few. And it's alarming the things they say, the things they show. It aggravates me b/c now I'm dealing with the "why can't I?" questions. Or the "but her mom let her." It makes it harder for the mothers who are adhering to the age policies or who actually make sure their daughters aren't conversing with inappropriate adults.

  10. @shell It's tricky. I don't want to be the mom that sneaks in the child's room and reads the journal, but there are risks and lessons to be learned online. We need to know what's going on in order to be supportive.

    @Arnebya I am bewildered by parents who let their kids open a FB account when they are under the age of 13. It's a lot to handle--like being put in a world for 21 and older at too young an age. I like what you said about children expecting 100% control over social media--great point. Thanks for your comment.

  11. That's so great that you were so careful about it and set out expectations. I would have been horrified to have found that as well.

    As for Google+ I hadn't thought about that. My kid is only 3 so it won't be an issue for a while yet, but this is going to be ever-evolving, isn't it? Sigh.

  12. @Robin Yes, ever-evolving, which makes creating rules a never-ending process. One day, there will be a great number of resources to use ahead of time, similar to what there is today for potty training.

  13. oh the agita this brings up for me. i'm so impressed by how calm and diligent you are. it's all so new...we can only foresee so much...and we're just figuring it out as we go along. that terrifies me.

  14. Glad to have found this post via the Studio 30 Plus forums! My daughters are younger (10 and 11) - they do have Facebook pages (an impromptu decision on my part that I have since regretted), and they do feel that they should be able to be online a whole lot more than I'm willing to allow them to be.

    Thank you for making me think of things I hadn't yet thought of... I need to set some firm Facebook rules right now, so that things don't get out of control. With two girls, that could happen so easily. It kind of terrifies me, to be honest!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. I haven't posted anything in a while and your words are a reminder to me of how important it is we continue to share our stories.

      Good luck with your children and many blessings!


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