Facebook Etiquette For Parents

If your teen has "friended" you on Facebook, MySpace, or another social networking site, consider it a huge compliment, but tread carefully. Here are some dos and don'ts for parents of high-schoolers who've been given access to their teenager's site:
  • Don't leave reminders on his page about chores or homework. Tell yourself, refrain, desist, resist. Whatever it takes, because this is not the appropriate venue to remind him to brush his teeth after he eats his snack.
  • Do read, listen, and learn about her world, tastes, choice of friends. What a chance to find out a wealth of stuff about your teenager without interrogation or argument!
  • Don't post a dorky photo of yourself on your site. In fact, skip your own mug altogether and exploit a funny photo of your teen's favorite pet. Or stick to the default question mark. And don't post photos of your children on your site without their permission.
  • Do keep your own page updated and active, so that it doesn't look like your only raison d'ĂȘtre is to spy. You might find out that social networking can be fun, as more and more adults are connecting through the web these days.
  • Don't react to anything you find on his page with negative commentary or critique (see exception below).
  • If something does trouble you about your teen's page, wait for the right moment to ask about it. Start with something like: "So, what'd you think about that note X left on your wall?" or "Hey, I've never heard of that song (or movie or video game) before. What's so great about it?"
Remember, your son is giving you the same information he's giving his friends, and he's giving it freely. Abuse the privilege by using that information to manipulate, to share as gossip or joke fodder with your own friends, or as a source of parental lecture material, and you'll lose it in no time. 

If you're not on your son or daughter's list of invited insiders, what are you waiting for? Set up a page of your own and once you have about ten other friends on your list, send a friend request to your teen. Then hold your breath and pray for the gift of an open door to her online presence. If it comes, give loud, vociferous thanks to God and a quiet, understated, two-day-later thanks to your teen. If it doesn't, wait for her "Mom, what are YOU doing on MySpace?" to start an interesting, new dialog about the Internet  -- with the learning and listening going both ways, as usual.

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