Facebook and Middle School Kids: Guidelines for Parents
Middle school brings with it a need to begin to teach kids about texting and online socializing. Helping your kids navigate these waters is important, and if parents AREN’T on facebook with their kids, it can be very dangerous and at the very least, unwise to allow you kids completely private worlds of conversation, texting, and online recording of of it for many to see. It can harm their reputation and give them a mirror world…parents excluded.
Facebook has guidelines of being 13 years or older to join, but because of the allure of games with graphics geared toward kids of younger ages, and because kids love to connect, it is very difficult to wait that long.
Even though we are a very media conservative family, we allowed our kids to have facebook accounts, provided we always had the password, could block anyone we were not comfortable with, we would all disconnect if ads got inappropriate on Facebook, and we would stay “connected” as “facebook friends” for accountability purposes.
Our community and church youth group uses facebook for announcements and connection for private messaging. Our kids don’t have phone and texts are expensive, but they can post us messages to facebook for free from their iPod Touch when they get free WiFi (very common at places they stay or visit when traveling on youth trips). The connection has been valuable to celebrate life’s events with them. Often, we will even “facebook” each other from different rooms in the house, exchanging humor and funny quips. We have found it fun, for the most part.
With parental guidance, it can be fun. It does take some oversight to stay healthy. For instance, we have blocked girls in the summer who post playful pics of themselves and girlfriends in bikini tops, with the understanding that we might add them back in later if they calm down on that behavior in other seasons of the year. While guys see girls in that dress when they are out, it just seems to translate differently online. I’ve found that I know things about kids their parents do not know because they are not in their kid’s social networking circles, unfortunately. It makes it very awkward to tell them when they are not taking opportunities to keep up with what their kids are doing.
Like it or not, social networking seems to be where kids gravitate.
- Control panel has settings where you can only let “friends” see your photos. I think this is wise. “Friends of friends” seeing those can lure in predators.
- Appropriate commenting is important to discuss with your child. Scripture tells us to build one another up.
- Advise children to NOT put up posts when the family will be away from home for extended times.
- You can set their account so that people cannot find them by searching on facebook. They would have to invite appropriate friends themselves.
- Sharing “friendship quarrels”. This is mainly girls. Providing guidance on how much emotion is appropriate to air and why.
- Types of photos and why
- Chatting: I’ll cover this more below
- Apps. Applications like gaming and sending special icons on facebook often ask you to allow “access to your information”. It is important to NOT run a lot of apps or untrusted apps because they can present security threats to your computer, using by way of “spamming” messages to your facebook account, posting posts you never agreed to post. If there is an option which says “allow posts without my permission”, DO NOT CHECK IT.
- Double checking information. Snopes.com is a great website to run things through before posting. Missing children’s reports, bizarre sounding news stories, gimmicks. A lot of these are posted without thought that they may not be true. It’s the equivalent of gossip. Don’t repeat it until you check it out to keep credibility.
- Realize TONE is not communicated in writing, so we have to be careful.
- Gaming: While games like “Farm Town” can be fun, realize they need oversight to determine the level of involvement created with strangers. In ‘Farm Town”, for instance, kids will interact with adults to be “hired” for work. Generally, this is straightforward, but oversight is good. Realize that some games are not age appropriate. Discuss with your kids what games are suitable and which ones you’d prefer them to stay away from.
Facebook does not record chat history. While we are not prying, it’s important to get some spot checks and checkpoints to make sure interactions between guys and girls are on appropriate levels for their age. ( I believe this is also try for phone chatting/texting.) I am looking into an extention app to my browser bar to give me tools as a parent I would like to have to check in on this from facebook (I recommend having similar guidelines for electrnic devices). This app has been taken down everywhere in Google chrome and is only available to Firefox users through facebook at this time. While I prefer Google Chrome for it’s current viral superiority, readability, and asthetics, I will be switching back to try to keep a handle on this important area. As to the new Firefox, be aware that it allows history deletion by page or by the last 1, 2, or 4 hours and so on–tnot healthy for families for the most part, though there are times during Christmas season it would have helped me as a mom!
Back in the day, my parents could pick up the phone at any time. They made it clear that they paid the phone bill, and they could monitor my conversations, not pry, but spot check. I was aware. I had to play by their rules. I’m glad they set them and it really did help. Today, things have changed. Our tools have to change to keep up. My kids are aware that I will do this, it is my Biblical responsibility according to Proverbs 31 “She watches diligently over the affairs of her household.” My kids have not rebelled against oversight, in fact, it seems to make them feel more safe to have some guidelines and oversight. On rare occasion, I’ve asked them to take a post down if their information has gotten ahead of where it needed to be. For example, once my child overheard a phone conversation about a reschedule on a children’s play. That “final” information affected a lot of people and needed to come from her choir leader, not from our post.
That’s all for now. Hopefully these guidelines will help you begin to keep track of what’s up with your kids.