Teens & Social Networking

Parent Q&A

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  • Our young adult ND kids (23,24) lament that it's been really difficult to connect with other peers in this pandemic. The most popular dating apps have not yielded meaningful connections with peers who value mutual acceptance of differences and building a friendship base before romantic involvement.

    Safety has been a concern as well because our kids tend towards naive and so may miss the more subtle "red flags" from others.

    Are there are apps geared towards the needs of the neurodiverse community? I've heard of Hiki but don't know anyone who has used it locally and it's very new.

    Until the usual natural avenues for making social connections open up again, how young adults are meeting nowadays.

    Thank you

    As a parent of an ND teen, I was glad to see your post. My son attended a high school for ND students for a while and it was wonderful to see him make friends with other ND teens. I have been trying to figure out a way to get him connected with other ND teens now that he attends public high school and everything has been a non-starter. The school and the parent group are telling me to form an affinity group but how do you do that when the student is revealing confidential health information just by joining? I don't want to give up on this, though. Our kids will live fuller and happier lives if they can connect with other ND people to form social relationships and feel understood. 

    My neurodiverse 16yo has maintained contact with peers through his interests in Magic the Gathering and D&D. In addition to playing the games, there are servers (like old fashioned message boards) to facilitate communication between folks with similar interests. 
    your kids might not have those interests but maybe they will find friends throughfollowing their areas of interest...

    My son has internalized the extremely important need to NOT share personal info on the message boards unless it’s someone he has met or someone a friend has met in person, so I can breathe easy. 

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Daughter, 15, is addicted to Instagram

Sept 2013

My daughter, 15, is addicted to Instagram. Since she created her account about 6 months ago she has not picked up a book since. She used to read for pleasure a lot. Now she just stares at her instagram feed on her phone all the time. She promised me she would limit herself to one hour on weekdays and two hours on weekends but I have a difficult time monitoring her online behavior. Is there an iphone app that can track or monitor the amount of time a person spends on instagram or safari so my daughter and I can view her actual usage statistics? OR are there any apps where she could block instagram on her computer until after she finishes her homework? Sadly, I think instagram is interfering with homework too. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? thanks Karen

If it is affecting her as much as you say, I would take away her smart phone and get her just a plain cell phone with no internet connectivity. -Parent of Twins

Are you the one paying for the smartphone that consumed your daughter ? If so, you can easily pull the plug. You can demand that she hand you the phone while she does her homework, and then give it back after 8pm. Also, if you go to the cell provider and lower the monthly data plan, this could help as well. Once you receive the email from the cell provider that your monthly data has almost been used up (and it's more $ for the next bloc of data), you can demand that she stop using data for the month.

I think you will need to put your foot down. SF Mommy.

14 year old girl and social internet use

Nov 2012

My 14 year old daughter is a great kid -- gets good grades, has friends, plays sports and is a pretty normal well adjusted teen. However, she spends most of her down time on facebook, instagram, and texting with her friends. Fortunately she has common sense about what to post and has never posted any suggestive photos (unlike many of her peers, but that's a different discussion!) She tends to procrastinate her required reading for school, and reads books occasionally for pleasure. She does read a few teen magazines. When I was her age I read like crazy, and wrote in my journal. However, I was not a happy teen so the amount of time that I spent reading and ruminating was probably excessive. I'm not sure what limits to put on the phone and internet use. I tried to set the limit of no internet and texting until her homework is done during the week, and everything off at 9 pm, but I can't monitor her constantly. One of her friends seems to be available to text at any hour, so they stay up late texting one another. I read that Michelle Obama's rule is no internet or phone use during the week, but when I tried to enforce that, it was truly like I took away her heroin, and there was massive amounts of yelling and claims that I was crazy. I really think that it's an addiction that she can't break, and I can't see what is positive about it other than it seems to have taken the place of talking on the phone with your friends after school. I feel like she's not learning how to be alone with herself, and just be with her feelings and thoughts. My plan is to get some sort of timer for the modem, and have it just go off at 9 pm, but that doesn't take care of her phone. What are other parents doing? Does anyone else feel frustrated and powerless? luddite mom

Dear Adjusting, Your idea of setting limits on screen time is right on the mark for this oh-too-common issue nowadays. As you experienced, trying to do it in large bits can be overwhelming, so a slightly more gradual approach, with ways to earn more (but still limited) access time, can be useful. There are also apps where you can set times where certain programs, or all internet use, is not available. Another idea would be to communicate with your daughter's friends' parents so that this can be a coordinated effort. Renee

I think setting reasonable limits is fine, but if you think you can do something to make your daughter stop enjoying her screen time and do instead the things you used to do, you're fighting a losing battle.

Sure, set her modem to shut down at 9 p.m. (although I think it's reasonable to make that later on non-school nights). You can also tell her she has to hand in her phone at bedtime if there's a pattern of her staying up until all hours texting and then being too tired to function.

But you say that your daughter gets good grades, has friends and plays sports. So let her do what she wants in her downtime. Frankly, I don't understand your desire for her to learn how to be alone with herself and her feelings and thoughts. Reading and journal-writing are escapes too--but they were your escapes, so they feel okay to you. When she's online she's socializing, which I think is inherently positive in the absence of the harassment, etc. that can come with any social interaction.

When I was a teen, 30 years ago, I desperately wanted phone time so I could talk with my friends at night. I lived for it, despite also being a voracious reader. No one claimed I was addicted to being on the phone (or reading). I don't think your daughter is addicted to socializing in this modern way. She's just enjoying it. Set limits so that she does her homework and gets enough sleep, keep talking about safe use of media (harassers, sexting, predators), and let her enjoy herself.

You have a tough challenge at this point and I can sympathize. We have two 16 year old teenagers (boy/girl).

We put the computer they share in the dining room. There is also a laptop that they can use in the public areas of the house if the other computer is busy. They can send as much eMail as they want.

They have cellphones, but we put them on a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go plan and give them $50/year for cell phone use. @ 10 cents a minute or text, they can call or text us once/day if needed (if they need to be picked up, etc.) with $50. Any spending above that comes out of their allowance ($20/month). It is a regular cell phone, not a smart phone with a data plan (which we don't see why they need).

This system immediately made our daughter (who likes texting) tell her friends: ''no junk texts because I have to pay for them.''

RE: Facebook We said no Facebook until they are 18. It is a huge time-waster and has the potential for abuse. They will be 18 in their senior year of HS. They can connect up with friends then before they go off to college. There was some negative reaction but they were only 13 at the time and hadn't already been on Facebook so when we made it clear it wasn't going to happen, they reluctantly accepted it.

Our daughter is jealous of her friends who have Facebook, but she knows we won't budge on this, so she doesn't bring it up much any more.

As you found out, scaling back on these things leads to extreme reactions. But it will only get harder as she gets older.

I think it is better to bite the bullet now and set strict limits and steel yourself for the negative feedback.

I don't think ''no internet'' use during the week is practical for middle or high school students. All their assignments are on the school website and they use the internet for research.

If texting is the problem, then confiscate her cell phone when she comes home. She doesn't really need it until she leaves the house. She can use your house phone to call someone if she wants.

Ultimately though, it is up to your daughter to decide what is important (school or her social life). She needs to find that balance. You can help her by setting limits, but she has to realize that school is #1. Good luck. -parent of teens

You are the parent. With a little backbone, set some reasonable rules. You could remind your daughter that you are being more lenient than Michelle Obama. Some rules are relatively easy to enforce. To start with one--her cell phone must be turned off and left on the dining room table at 9 pm and she cannot turn it back on until __ am.

That way it is out of her bedroom and you can easily see it. Any breaking of that rule means that she loses use of the cell phone the next day and you get possession of it for the next full 24 hours. Frances

Please, read over again to yourself the first line of your post. The phone and computer are just the new tools for what teens have always done, to start to break away parental control. And for your own sanity, don't compare yourself to someone who lives in the White House! I imagine discipline is a little different with the secret service to back you up! Berkeley mom

Shut out of 14-year-old's Facebook page

April 2011

My 14-year-old daughter has closed me out of access to her Facebook page, with the exception of her profile information. I can't see her wall, or, more important to me, the pictures she posts. The original conditions under which she got her Facebook page some years ago (yes, I know all kids are supposed to be 13 to have one and she was younger than that) was that I would be her friend and be able to see everything she posts. At this point I'm not sure I want to ''stalk'' her, as she puts it, but it seems that if she has in the back of her mind that her parent might see her page, she might self-edit a bit. I haven't confronted her on this yet, because I'm trying to figure out what I want. For example, I make every attempt to respect her privacy, but then Facebook is hardly a private arena. And, on the other hand, she's showing that she understands Facebook well enough to screen possibly inappropriate material from certain eyes (in this case her parents'.) Has anyone else had this experience? I'd be interested to know what people's rules are for teens and Facebook. When does the parental supervision fall away entirely? mom

if you gave her conditions under which she gets a facebook page, you need to stick to those. consistency! anon

As the parent, you set the rules. My rule was that Facebook was okay as long as was ''friended.'' If your daughter wants to ''defriend'' you, then take her computer away. Yes, I've seen alot of compromising photos of my kids' friends (drinking, drunk, smoking weed) and I do think parent monitoring keeps kids from posting things they may later regret. Do not make excuses or feel guilty when she accuses you of ''stalking.'' You are the parent. marguerite meade

My 14 year old shut me out of facebook in the same way - I could have written your letter. I decided I would insist she ''refriend'' me, as per our original agreement. It took over a week of ''reminders'' commonly referred to as nagging, but she did do it although very reluctantly. I know I may have this battle ongoing and she may very well shut me out again but I intend to tow the line on this one. My daughter has gotten into some sticky situations already on the internet, and I believe just the knowledge that adults do enter into their online world, albeit much to their dismay, is important. currently re-friended mom

Can I de-activate my 16-year-old's facebook page?

Nov 2010

I am trying to find out what rights I have as a parent to deactivate my 16-year-old daughter's Facebook page. She is not living at home right now, and does not have access to a computer. Her Facebook page is becoming a billboard for friends to speculate about her whereabouts and discuss her situation and I would like to take it down for the time being. According to the Facebook FAQ's anyone over the age of 13 is an authorized account holder and their parents can't interfere with their account. Ideally, of course, I would like my daughter to give me her log-in information, but if that doesn't happen, I want to know what other recourse I have. I find it incredible that parents have no rights in this matter, especially because they will probably be held accountable for any mischief their minor children can get into on Facebook. My daughter is vulnerable and at-risk and I only want to do this to protect her privacy. I don't want to go through her messages or photos, just take it all offline for a while. I couldn't find any way to contact a person at Facebook to ask about it, so I am reaching out to the BPN community. Any ideas? Frustrated cyber-mom

Assuming you can get her login credentials, you can go to Account Account Settings Deactivate. All your daughter's content will still be there for when she reactivates it, but nobody can write on her wall, or tag her, or any other actions linked to her account. Here's a bit more about it: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/11/the_facebook_super_log-off_or.html - Erica

Have you tried contacting Facebook customer service? They do have staff, and I have had at least a dozen friends have successful resolutions to FB issues, not this particular one, but I encourage you to at least try. It seems if you simply ask to limit posting on the wall - this is in the ''security settings'' then others can be excluded from posting. I have known people who had to take over family member accounts for other reasons and they do seem to be able to get into the account. You can also ''report'' or ''block'' anyone making really bad comments - go to their page - it is in the lower left margin. navigating FB

Facebook Safety for 12 year old

Sept 2009

My 12 year old daughter has been pushing for us to let her get a Facebook account. I have stayed away from it myself as I'm worried about the time-sink factor, time I just don't have. I know before I let her do it I would join myself to get familiar with it but am just trying to do some initial research before I plunge in. What are the risks for a 12 year old girl doing Facebook. I have always felt very solid about her judgment but the ground is quickly shifting and I just don't know what she is going to get into. I would greatly appreciate any wisdom from those of you who have been there, what to be aware of, what age seems appropriate. She reports that many of her friends are on Facebook already. We finally relented to texting. (I am an older mother and am just turned off by the obsession with technology, but also realize it is her generation, technology is everywhere and will always be a big part of her life. ) Concerned mom

Someone just asked a similar question last week '' Graphic Facebook Chat ''. Read the replies. -

If your 12-year-old daughter joins Facebook, then you should join also, and become her ''friend.'' Consider getting a Facebook for Dummies book, too, to guide you on what you and she can do on line. That way you can monitor her Facebook activities (although not her 1:1 communications when she's on line), and have some hope of protecting her internet safety. She is likely to start a Faecebook account on her own, anyhow. When my child was 14, she had not previously used the computer much. One day, she announced that she had signed up for Internet Messenger and Facebook, told them she was 24, and had a dozen online ''friends'' already. ... Been There

13 years old is the minimum age requirement to sign up for a Facebook account. Mary

Firstly, you have to know how Facebook works if you want to help your daughter set it up safely. It's not very hard and you don't have to be on it all the time (though I have to say it really fun finding old friends and sharing family photos, etc.). In the settings/privacy pull down menu there are many ways to limit your daughter's exposure. One way is to set everything on ''friends only''. You also need to do this with all photos that she uploads. There is a loophole and it's when her friends don't set the same privacy protections on THEIR photos and she is ''tagged'' in one. I'm not sure what the workaround for that is except to ask her to ask her friends to also put these limitations on. If you ask her to ''friend'' you then you are privvy to all that's being said on her ''wall'' and see what photos are being passed around. I think that since she's 12, you have absolute right to ask to be a part of it. The other part is that she needs to learn to only friend people who she actually knows in person! I hope this helps! anon

My 14 year old daughter has been on Facebook for a couple of years. You are right, it can eat up time. I have asked her not to waste time on the little flare or quiz things and just use it to keep in touch with friends. I am friended with her and monitor what she posts. Unfortunately, she has no control what her friends post and occasionally they have written foul language. She is against dirty words and her friends know it so they respect that when they post. She has written some stuff that was too detailed about social situations with her friends and I gave her feedback. My husband's 20- something nieces and nephews in another state are often posting stupid stuff that provide excellent examples of what NOT to write. Guess they don't have high ambitions. My husband has a Facebook account and is not a friend so that he can view what the public sees in her profile. Read up on all the guidelines and good luck! JK

My daughter is 13 1/2 and has been doing facebook for two years. She started this from her dad's house and I initially objected but was convinced by her- and her father- that she would be fine.

And she has been so far. She does not accept friend requests from strangers but only from friends of friends. Her 8th grade friends usually have accounts, and she meets their friends through them. Her parents and her stepmom have some, uh, oversight on the account because she friended us (we insisted) and identifies us as relatives on her site.

The Onion had a very snide video recently about how to use Facebook to meddle in your college age kid's life. If the kid is 12 or 13, these methods are frankly perfectly acceptable (to me at least). Anon.

Re: Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. i want to tout, again, what i think is the best newsletter out there for issues about family and technology. And it's free! (though i'm sure donations would be welcome). See http://www.netfamilynews.org. It's edited by Anne Collier,a writer and journalist who has worked in the news media since 1980. With SafeKids.com's Larry Magid, she co-directs ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. I think you will find it very useful to read how others have reacted to your situation, and to get the bigger picture of how our teens are viewing their online activities. (PS. Anne and Larry co-authored MySpace Unraveled: A Parent's Guide to Teen Social Networking (Peachpit Press, 2006). best, Sooz

From my experience it's easier to exert a lot of control and oversight on kids and technology at the introduction of a new medium - because it's very difficult to get it back later. My objections to the site include the incredible time suck, but also the posting of questionable photos (girls posing in front of the camera in somewhat provocative poses - not always aware of how provocative they are being, just imitating what they see on tv and in advertisements - and then engaging in an endless stream of comments about the photos. Where it gets nefarious is when boys check them out and make somewhat lewd comments. My advice to you would be to start with a LOT of rules. You should have access to her account, including her password (you can set up an account yourself and become her friend, which allows you to see her page, but you don't see who she's sending messages to.) Also, I'd talk to her about what kinds of things she is allowed to post, and monitor it to be sure it doesn't get inappropriate. I don't say all this to set up a relationship of spying on your daughter. It's just that a lot of snarky stuff goes on on this web site, and teens don't always have the best judgment, and I think if she feels that her parent is looking over her shoulder that can be a good control. Plus, if she hasn't already, she will start pulling away and it's harder to push yourself back into her life without seeming like you don't trust her. For example, my daughter ''friended'' me so I can see her page, but I don't have her password or access to her messages (i.e. who she's corresponding with.) To ask for that now would set up a contentious situation where she would get angry about losing privacy and about my not trusting her. Finally, I would get someone you know to show you around facebook - ideally an older teenager who can give you the straight dope so you can know in advance what you're up against. Good luck. mom in the trenches

Is Facebook okay for 12 year old?

March 2009

My about-to-be 12 year old (6th grader) wants to join Facebook to communicate with friends. We generally have tried to ''go slow'' with respect to computer stuff with our kids and we aren't that savvy about sites like Facebook. He says other kids at school/in his class use Facebook but I wanted to get an independent read on when other parents are letting their kids get on Facebook and whether parents of 12 year olds have had an okay or bad experience with it. I don't want to be overly restrictive but I don't want to be leading the pack either. Thanks for your advice! unsure mom

Facebook-- is a good way to just know how totally out of control alot of kids are. Do I think your 12 year old or 13 year old should have access? NO! Unless you need to know about your child's friends. I am shocked, totally shocked as is my 15. 5 year old to see classmates posting pictures of themselves using a bong; other bragging about drinking, durgging, sex and alot of other unsavory behavior. I think the kids are doing all this and more. Some of the girls post pictures showing genitals. The latest was a parody, if you want to call it that with Hitler's score 150 and Jews score 97-- this is from a very upscale, educated suburb in the Bay Area. Facebook, really isn't monitoring what's on their site. Something like Hitler should be in an automatic word search that the posting automatically is reviewed by FaceBook staff if it appears and the facebook account closed down! FB definitely has this sort of technology at their disposal. anonymous

After seeing the sole response in the recent newsletter, I thought I'd chime in with our decision on this and how we deal with FB for our middle schooler.

12 is a little young. My son was 13 and in 8th grade when he got his account (earlier this school year). You might want to hold out until next year, or maybe over the summer.

First, the basics: your computer should be in a public place (whether your child is on FB or not). This will allow you to monitor how much time is spent on Facebook and what he/she is doing. Also, help him/her set up the account. Make sure the settings are such that only people he/she ''friends'' can see his/her page. (Some people have their page set such that ANYONE of FB's millions of users can see their info!!) No posting of phone numbers or too much personal info, etc.

Second, get your own Facebook account and insist your child ''friend'' you. Best way to monitor what's going down. The upside of this is that I have reconnected with many relatives and old friends. i do not lurk or comment on my son's activities all too much (I want him to think I'm not looking, in fact), but i do check in from time to time to see what his friends are saying and posting. I also do not hold him responsible for what other kids post, especially if it really has nothing to do with him.

Third, realize that your child will potentially end up friending hundreds of kids, many of whom he/she is not really friends with. I am surprised at some of the kids my son talks about not liking but has on his friends list. So, it is just a cultural thing that all the kids at school friend each other.

Fourth, kids will be partying and doing stupid, dangerous, ill advised things whether Facebook ever existed or not. You need to have your finger on the pulse of your child's school community and on his/her social network regardless of his/her online activities. Facebook doesn't make kids party, but for some reason they feel the need to advertise their indiscretions. Honestly, I'm glad some of them do because it is a good jumping off point for solid, honest discussions with my son.

Lastly (I think), exercise your power as a parent. Should you allow a FB account, monitor your child's activity. If he/she breaks the rules (too much time on FB, inappropriate posts, etc.), then password protect the computer and only let him/her on when you allow it. Also, you can ''unfriend'' someone without them knowing it, so make sure your kid doesn't do that.

I have to say I am loving Facebook. My son and I have reconnected with many nieces, nephews (my sons cousins) and other relatives. It has been a lot of fun having discussions and jokes between all of us even though we are spread out around the country (and abroad, in fact). So, Facebook can be a great thing. Again, just exercise caution and shut it down if it gets out of hand. FB Mom

Well, if you believe in following rules, Facebook requires you to be 13 to set up an account. That being said, I am shocked and disappointed at how many of my daughter's middle school friends (who are not yet 13) have FB accounts, presumably with their parent's knowledge. I had a spirited discussion with the mother of one of these kids recently. Her argument was that kids will be living in a different world than we did, and they need to get used to it. My reply is I get that, I enjoy FB too, but our kids do not have to experience all of this at once. I think FB is too susceptible to abuse, bullying, spreading rumors, etc. to be a good idea for middle school kids (not to mention the abuse of the English language that occurs there!). So for me, this is an easy ''no''. I love FB (but I am 44!)

FYI -- You must be 13 years or older to have a Facebook account (there is a place to enter your birthdate)! Brenda

Shocked by my daughters' friends' Facebook pages

Dec 2008

My 13yr old daughter and lots of her friends are on facebook. She is my 'friend' so I can see not only her profile, but any of her friend's photos that she comments on. In fact, I can see their whole album if she just comments on one photo. We've been talking about how none of it is private, even if they think only their 'friends' can see it. I am shocked at what I'm seeing on some of her friend's sites. Super provocative photos, really racy comments from boys & girls (some they barely know), photos of im's they are having and thinking are private and in the moment, etc. I think these girls would be horrified that adults see it. I think they are in real danger of ruining their reputation (at best) and much worse. I wonder if their parents are checking. What's your strategy for supporting teens as they mature, yet also helping to safeguard them as they make this passage? Do I limit my daughter's exposure to certain friends now that I see what they're up to? I'll certainly create other plans before letting her join one of the sleep overs where a lot of this happens. I don't know many of the parents since its middle school, and I wondering whether this is an issue for our school. Thanks. mom

This is really an appalling trend among some kids. There are many bad things about it but the most impt. part is the the motivation. My daughter only wanted to be ''one of the crowd'' and really had no interest whatsoever in making contact with strangers. That was not true of others. Not that being one of the crowd is necessarily a good motivation, but she was not seeking to meet strangers, which is far more dangerous.

We had a very bad period of about 2 years before she decided to go in another direction.However we ran a constant war with her. We took away access to the computer; wrote to MySpace and got them to remove her accounts and just fought it every way we could. It was a continual problem.

BTW, she went to a well-known and respected private school and I would say that there were any number of boys and girls doing the same.

I did contact parents of two boys who sent awful emails. One parent's reaction was ''my son couldn't have done this'' and the other said to please send her the emails. I sent them to both families.

I don't think you can stop them from keeping their friends, but you should notify parents if you find scary things on their kids' Facebooks/MySpaces. The best language I found was ''I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I thought you would like to know that I saw.....on their MySpace''. You can explain that you were monitoring yours, and found theirs. They may or may not be happy about it, but they should want to know.

Good luck. Anonymous

I, too, have been shocked by some of the stuff I've seen on Facebook (and MySpace), and just want to urge more parents to get on there and keep an eye on what their kids are doing online.

With both FB and MS, one of the conditions of my 13-year-old using the sites was that he had to ''friend'' me. I also ''friended'' his close pals -- kids he grew up with who are practically part of our family, and who wouldn't think it was weird that I was asking to friend them. These are mostly nice kids from mostly intact, educated, middle- and upper-middle-class families, but I've been floored by what I've seen them say and do online: 7th grade girls posing in bras and bikinis offering oral sex or boasting of their sexual prowess, cyber-bullying and slander, kids posting school essays for others to copy, talking about getting high, saying they want to stab a teacher ''in the vagina,'' and on and on. Across the board, these kids don't get or don't care that most of what they're doing on these sites is not terribly private -- e.g., that anyone who's a ''friend'' (which can include hundreds of virtual strangers) or even a friend of a friend can see all of their ''wall'' posts, photos, photo comments, etc.

I've tried to talk to other parents about it, particularly ones whose kids are posting the most shocking stuff, but many are willfully ignorant about it. I hear a lot of ''I barely know how to get online, much less use FB.'' Please, for your child's sake, figure it out. Make a FB account, friend your kid, and regularly check in on what he or she is doing there. (Also make sure your teen doesn't have a ''secret'' account that they really use, while keeping their ''official'' one clean. I know several of my son's classmates do this. Look over your kid's friends' lists of FB friends to make sure your child doesn't show up there twice, with one ''nice'' account and one ''naughty.'') My own son knows I check his FB page several times a week, so he thinks twice about what he posts there.

Is this an invasion of privacy? Possibly, but I don't care. These kids need some parental oversight, especially when they're using what is essentially a public forum. Facebook Savvy Mom

I too have a teen on facebook, in fact, after this, I am going on to see what i see.

I think we all need to check our kids sites and tell our husbands/partners to do the same = after all you are parenting... and isn't this parenting?

If I find anything racy my child as posted then she knows the consequences = If I find anything a friend's child has done, I am going to call that family too mention they should look at their child's site to make their own judgement.

Good luck and don't hesitate to say something if it goes against your family rules and frankly for that matter your values or morals...speak up parents...your kids will respect you for it. Parent who speaks up

Facebook - is it safe?

August 2008

My daughter recently opened an account on facebook.com. How safe is this? What's the difference between this and my space? Are weird people and sexual nut cases able to stalk young teens on this?

As you've probably guessed, I'm nervous about having her on this, expecially because her photo is on it. She of course has reassured me that it's absolutely safe and not to worry.

Any input greatly appreciated.

You should make sure that your daughter has her profile on ''private''. That means that only people who she has invited to be a ''friend'' can view her photos and communicate freely with her. It's the same as with MySpace. I, personally, am having a hard time adjusting to this new way of communication. With the text messaging and IMing!!! What happened to tying up the phone line for hours?? Good Luck! anon

You should make a facebook page for yourself! Then you'll be an ''expert''. My kids have facebook, and so do my teen nieces and nephews. In the past year, even my 50-something sisters have all gotten on facebook, and a growing number of friends and work colleagues have too. I was a little skeptical at first, but I now think facebook is tons of fun. I'm connected on facebook with family and old friends and I can keep up with them and vice versa with very little effort.

You set up your facebook page so that only your ''friends'' (the people you have specified) can see it. Others would be able to tell you have a facebook page from your name or email address, but the most they can do is send you a message that they want to ''friend'' you. In the last 6 months I have gotten one or two such messages from people I didn't know, which I just ignored. But I've gotten lots of friend requests from old pals from elementary school, distant relatives I lost touch with, etc. It's great!

This summer we went to a big family reunion back in Kentucky and afterwards all the cousins with facebook pages (basically everybody under 30) uploaded photos from the event to their facebook pages so everybody got to see them. It's brilliant. You can ''tag'' photos with names, so people in the photos will get a message about the photo. And you can post little comments about the photos, which the younger set do and everyone gets to read. No more emailing all the cousins a big batch of digital photos that clogs everybody's mailboxes. My older relatives who have facebook are there because they want to see the photos.

Another fun thing on facebook is becoming a ''fan'' of something. For example, you can be a fan of Peets or the Cheese Board, both of which have facebook pages. You can be a fan of Obama, or NPR, or the de Young museum, which will then send you notifications about upcoming events. There are all kinds of crazy things to do on facebook, mostly designed for the vast legions of those much younger than we are, but still, we oldies have a growing presence!

I also have a myspace page. Myspace is not as much fun as facebook and it also has more ads. When I first went on myspace I got a lot of spam, but this seems to have diminished now. However, myspace is where all the musicians have their main pages, and the place to go to legally download a song a band has made available. So this could be why people have both facebook and myspace. I recently googled an obscure band and found the only way I could get info about them was by logging in to my myspace page.

There are many other social networking sites as well, but some of them are pretty bad, so I would recommend sticking with facebook. An old (55-y-o) pal who lives in Japan friended me on one of the more obscure ones called ''hi5'' and as soon as I signed up, I started getting emails from people I didn't know. It was quite hard to delete my page from that one too, which I wanted to do immediately. Facebook is not like that -- they make it very easy to have as much privacy as you want.

So, in summary, I suggest that you go to facebook.com right now and make a page for yourself. Then, find a flattering photo of yourself to upload to your page. You can look for names and emails of people you know who you think might be on facebook, or, you can give facebook all the names in your address book and they will tell you which of your friends have facebook pages already. Don't worry - facebook will not send them mail or notify them in any way unless you click a box that says you want to do that and then confirm!

Now the question is: Does your child want to be ''friends'' with you? One of my sons was happy to be my friend, and even some of his friends did too. The young ones have hundreds of facebook friends, so apparently they are even willing to friend a friend's mom. But my other son said No. He said there needs to be a boundary between Mom and Joe. OK, I can respect that. But he did friend my husband and all of my sisters so I can keep up with him that way!

I'd be happy to answer any questions about facebook - as you can see, I am a fan! G.

I have 2 daughters, 14 and 18, and both use facebook, as do 99% of their friends.

My suggestion is to set up your own facebook account to get an idea about how it works - then you can advise her, and join the fun as well! You could also stipulate that she be 'friends' with you - then you can monitor what type of content she posts.

Most importantly, review the privacy settings - you control who can see your profile, photos, etc. You need to manually change these settings to allow only friends, who you have added or approved, to see your information. The only thing non-friends can see is your profile photo (and I think you can even set that to private) and whatever networks you belong to. If you're concerned, you could have her not join her school's network, or adjust the setting so that it can't be viewed.

It's really a great tool for communicating - as long as users use common sense (which we know some teenagers are lacking sometimes . . . ) The rule is that if they don't want a future employer to know something, don't post it. I have heard that these days employee background checks include digging up stuff on facebook and myspace.

I started using facebook, and was amazed by how many friends and family in my generation are on it! I've gotten in touch with old friends, and a lot of people at my company use it. It's mostly kind of silly, but the 'profile status' updates are great. You can send private messages - I've found it to be a nice alternative to email and my overcrowded inbox. There a tons of mini applications that can be fun as well.

My oldest is heading off to UCLA, and is already getting to know her future roommates through facebook (they immediately found each other - it has pretty much replaced email for friend communication - which my kids consider 'old school'!)

By the time we get the hang of this, I'm sure they'll be on to something new! facebook mom

Provocative teen pages on mySpace

April 2005

Hello parents, I don't know how many of you are aware of the current teen ''hot'' activity that is www.myspace.com. My freshman daughter recently shared her page (wiht blog, photos, links, etc) with me, and it was cute enough, but it contained links to dozens of her friends' pages, many of which were deeply concerning. Girls whose pages included photos of them in their bras. Girls photos' with condoms in their mouths. Lots of very provocative language. Their full names and some of them even had phone numbers. They seem to have no clue (or maybe they do, and don't care) how very public these sites are. They say they want to meet ''hot boys.'' I think this is dangerous.

I am posting this here because I think all parents should be aware of this, and might want to know what their own kid is posting. You can just go to the main page (www.myspace.com) and do a ''search'' for your kid's school. Most likely you will find kids you know, and if your kid is friends with any of them, there will be a link to your kid's site.

Better to be aware, I think.

My 14-year-old Albany High daughter has accounts on both myspace.com and livejournal.com, and she is allowed online one hour a day when her homework's done. While I would never touch her hard-copy diary, I do skim both her and her friends' postings once in a while. (She does not know this, and, please, no lectures about invading her privacy; this is something I've thought about carefully.)

I've found that she only corresponds with people she knows, and that her friends are pretty sweet with one another, that they are mostly concerned with their friendships, annoying parents, music, day-to-day worries, changing emotions and ambitions. I've read nothing about partying, drugs, alcohol, and/or sex. (Or if they indulge in these activities, no one's bragging about it online!) One girl does have problems with grades and cutting class, and I've quietly encouraged my daughter to have her over more, do homework with her, etc.

Anyway, it was a relief to see what my girl's circle is up to, and I also think these blogs can be a very good place for kids to vent and to feel part of a community. My concern is for those who post their e-mail addresses and get into long ''conversations'' with people they don't know.

An excellent source of information and advice about this topic and other related matters is Carolyn Jabs's website www.growinguponline.com.

Well I took last week's advice and, checked up on Myspace to see what my 14 year old Freshman at Berkeley High daughter was up to and, to my disappointment I found several posts that made me cringe. While my daughter had told me she had a myspace account I didn't want to invade her privacy...what a MISTAKE

Background: she is what I and other parents have called a ''good'' kid. She gets good grades in School mostly A's and, an occasional B. Doesn't mouth off, treats people with respect and, gets ''pleasure to have in class'' on her report card. My gut tells me she's good but, has apparantly made some BAD choices.

I logged on and, searched for her on MYSPACE and, her friends. What I found I didn't like. It seems for my daughter's group there is a kind of competition amongst peers of who can be ''cool'' and have a ''cool'' myspace. I read things that were a bit disturbing to me.

Friends of hers posting about teasing boys etc. My daughters blogs were fairly benign with the standard ''I'm bored...school is boring'' but, a few posts were a bit of a diary of what she and her friends were up to...I found out in April she and some of her friends snuck out of a house they were spending the night at, they drank and 1 of the girls got drunk (and sick...) and, went skinny dipping in King Pool. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!

She has told me she has tried weed 2 times (once on 4/20 and earlier at a friends house and, given the excuse that at BHS it seems most everybody has tried it or smokes it sometimes. I asked her about some of her 4.0 friends? And, shocked to hear that they have tried it too.

This is crazy!

Sex? Well she hasn't YET, but some of her friends have and, since am shocked that it seems that in her circle it is too commonplace. She says she isn't ready and, that she promises that she'll wait until college. But, she also promised not to lie and, tell the truth.

I was unpleasantly surprised to find out what my seemingly good kid had been up to. Needless to say, this has engendered a lot of serious discussions, with the appropriate consequences and, appropriate levels of contrition of my daughter's part.

But, it is still shocking to me...these kids have been over to my house. They are repectful and, nice and, seem like good kids, but they are making BAD and STUPID choices. I hope I caught this early enough to nip this in the bud. I will yank her out of BHS if this situation does not get remedied to my liking. What my worry is that sex and weed/drinking are acceptable in many circles at BHS and seem ''normal''.

I would encourage other parents to find out what is possibly going on with their kids by reading what they and their friends are writing in their blogs...

I'm glad I followed the suggestion of an earlier poster.


Sex and weed/drinking were acceptable in many circles at my high school in Pensylvania in 1964, and at my daughter's high school in suburban New Jersey in 1989, and, again within many circles, in adult society throughout our country now. My daughter, (now a 30-year-old medical doctor), and I (now a computer programmer and mother of three), certainly made many risky and experimental choices when in high school that you would classify as BAD and STUPID. I think of this as a normal part of testing the boundaries of experience and understanding adult life and freedom.

Certainly as a parent I worry and try to talk my children out of things I think will turn out badly for them, but I have tried to allow them freedom to make their own choices (though I'm glad they never had a chance to go skinny-dipping in an old quarry at night the way my friends and I did!). Your daughter sounds like a good kid who loves you very much, very normal and not engaging in any very risky behavior. I hope you are not going to put barriers between her and her friends, because in the long run I would expect this to just create barriers between you and her.

Well, it's hard to tell whether I am here to post good news or bad news. Teens are online and doing things that you don't know about. That is just a fact. As the Director of Counseling at a Bay Area high school, the bad news is that the same sorts of behaviors that occur among Berkeley High students--''good'' kids blogging about their drug use, parties, posting pictures of themselves or others in various states of undress, etc.--happen at every single high school around the Bay Area.

Getting education about how the teens use the Internet, so that we can talk to them intelligently about their use, is the first line of response. Two of the best sources of information include: 1) Kids and Media at the New Millennium: A Comprehensive National Analysis of Children\xc2\x92s Media Use (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, California, 1999) and subsequent publications of the Kaiser Foundation, found at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/internet.cfm and; 2)Youth, Pornography and the Internet (National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2002). Two good internet sites include: 1) www.wiredsafety.org and 2) www.wiredkids.org.

I travel around California doing talks on ''Understanding the Online World: Chatting/Blogging, Gaming and Pornography'' and have been hearing the same thing for the last two years. ''Sure, my teen uses the internet, but she would never do something like give out a picture of herself showing her body.'' ''My son always plays games online, but he isn't looking at pornography. No way.'' ''She is really honest with me and even lets me see her online journal. She goes to an excellent school--I know it's a problem at other places, but not at our school.''

Inevitably, someone calls me after one of these talks and says that they were shocked to find out something...after checking the Internet Explorer history or their son or daughter's online weblog. This is an extensive topic, but I wanted to at least post a few tips:
14 and older --Involve teens in developing Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) at home; encourage self-monitoring but be willing to step in if certain conditions are met (establish these intervention points also with your teen --Set very clear rules for online use and clear consequences if they are broken; --Involve teens in limit-setting or use software/hardware like Eyetimer; --Promote positive use: Ask your teen for help researching topics of interest for the family (buying a new car, researching a vacation, etc.); --Talk about games, news stories, movies and television portrayals of online life; ask your teens their opinions; don't preach; --Make sure that you're helping to promote well-rounded activities that don't include internet use; teens don't actually want to be on the internet as much as they often are. They will frequently say that they feel ''trapped'' and don't know what else to do.; --If your teen is particularly interested in computers, encourage them to use computers with others, teach others computer skills (programming, web design, basic computer use), develop their mentoring skills with younger children and peers; --If you're having wars/major problems, take the internet- connected computer out of the bedroom\xc2\x97access to the internet from a teen's private space encourages isolation and higher amounts of usage; better yet, don't put it there to begin with; --Remember that unless you know and have already met the person you teen is chatting with, everything about that person may be fictitious (name, age, gender, history, motives, etc.; --Exchange of photographs or moving images of a sexual nature involving minors may be considered sexual exploitation under the California Penal Code and reportable as sexual abuse. This may involve civil and criminal penalties. It is not unusual for teens to share provocative pictures or to be sexual with each other using webcams. This can be damaging or dangerous if the teen is doing this, especially with an adult stranger; --Chatting and online messaging is often used to flame or harass teens (and younger kids) online. Some services like AOL have warning systems but people simply switch screen names and keep up the taunting or harassment. Don't be afraid to ask questions about who your teen is talking to and about what. Tell them that you don't intend to pry or invade their privacy without cause but you just want them to know that if they get into trouble online, they can talk to you about it.
I hope these general tips help. Starting in July, you can visit my website at www.PracticalHelpForParents.com, which will contain much more extensive information on internet use/blogging, etc.

Many thanks, Michael Y. Simon, MFT