Kids On Facebook – Facebook Briefs Parents in Palo Alto: Where does Facebook’s Business Model Fit into Protecting our Kids?

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My kids have Facebook accounts and we have a Facebook policy in our house. I guess that you’d put me in the camp of “parents for Facebook”. As a new and avid user of Facebook and someone keenly interested in social science and child development, I attended a Facebook meeting last night with parents in Palo Alto with great interest.

Every social media network is searching for the best method to create large audience leading to large amounts of advertising revenue. With over 200 million users and increased R&D budget to develop 35 new foreign language interfaces….I would say that Facebook’s goals are clear … to increase the social graph as quickly and dramatically as possible. It is working. 70% of Facebook’s users are outside of the US. Every day new members are added. Friends of friends become friends of friends…and so on and so on. Facebook is our children’s present social communication culture. Bravo to Facebook.

How many of those “friends of friends” do you want your child interfacing with…regularly, publicly & not in the real world? Being the inquisitive parent I am, I attended a local high school Parent Ed meeting last night.

The event l was billed as an event to increase your knowledge of your kids’ cyber culture on Facebook. The Facebook employee panelist was informative enough, but I couldn’t help feel that he really didn’t “get it”. His youth was indicative of the Facebook employee culture, but I am guessing he has never worried about a child getting home safely or being stalked on the Internet.

Questions were answered relating to privacy settings & Facebook procedures for blocking inappropriate posts and or members. The slide show was informative, but didn’t really reach the heart of the matter. The high school principal spoke with us about how the administration disciplines kids who post inappropriately in the high school network. The two high school age panelists spoke to their methods of protecting and sharing their information on Facebook. Yes, interesting, but I still left the event feeling hungry for more parenting tools.

I was left wondering, who is monitoring cyberspace outside of school hours? Whose responsibility is it? Should Facebook default to the most restrictive privacy settings for minors? Wouldn’t restrictions to spreading networks be highly counter to their business goals. Is Facebook’s sharing and connecting utility and business growth plan in conflict with the best interest of the kids?

Some parents felt that the school needed to become more proactive in teaching our kids to be safe, and even went so far as to suggest a mandated course. Others indicated that the cyber businesses which interact with youth need to take more responsibility.

My take: This is a new parenting frontier – an opportunity. We are two steps behind our kids, even if we think we know what they are doing online. It is a parent’s responsibility to discipline (Latin root = teach) our children how to protect themselves. Many kids balk at the idea of sharing their online communications with parents. Until my children are 18, I am the authority. We need to set expectations for our kids & walk them through this uncharted territory with guidelines. Parents: require your children to share passwords with you. Set time aside to see what your children are doing online. Invite them to browse through their accounts with you. Ask questions and really listen.

It is only with the cooperation of the businesses, schools and parent communities that we can hope to enjoy the benefits of social networks AND keep our kids smart & safe online.

Author: Linda Miola Furrier

Social Media Mom

83 thoughts on “Kids On Facebook – Facebook Briefs Parents in Palo Alto: Where does Facebook’s Business Model Fit into Protecting our Kids?”

  1. Yes, wonderful post! I got my fb first, using it a little bit as an excuse to help me to become friends with lots of my kids’ friends, which I love. Frankly, there is occasionally some content posted by teens/preteens that seems of somewhat questionable judgment to me, but I know it’s all very much a normal part of their culture and I keep my mouth shut. I’ve never seen anything truly alarming, or worth me sticking my nose in… And I also firmly believe that the dangers presented through fb are much less significant than those posed by everyday non-virtual life, whether at parties, in transit, etc. I’m really not worried about anything serious, only about viral spread of unkindnesses, undue crudeness, or unfortunate peer behavior that might turn into peer pressure. The scale of communication is certainly expansive with social networking tools, but I think there’s a positive side to this–I believe a lot of gossip gets restrained because of the ease with which it could spread. In other words, I think there’s a overall positive effect, dampening off-handed catty remarks and such, at least compared to the days of telephone socializing that characterized my high school days. And I think fb also allows teens to do the socializing that’s so very much a healthy part of their development in ways that’s much richer (politically and socially sophisticated; including links and other media) and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, much more efficient than the hours I remember hanging on the telephone communing but really not saying much back in the day. In sum, I think the teen discourse on fb, as I see it, is of a better nature and quality than comparable f-2-f. For what my impressions are worth!

  2. So true Vera M. We need to remember that cyberlife isn’t real life. The parent safety net needs to extend further for physical life. Connecting to kids online is the new dinner table conversation…a way to stay tuned in. I also realized, that we need to protect ourselves as adults in social networks too. Cyberbullying is not just for kids….the entire culture is about to flip on its end!

  3. Seems that kids on Facebook are no more monitored than I was on the street as a teenager. I ran into my share of risks even in a town of 8000 in Vermont.

    Educating our kids as to risks — online, or offline — should be a major part of parenting. To much, today, we just *shelter* them from risks. As a result, we’re raising a generation of kids more concerned about permanent records, and unqualified to be scientists, entrepreneurs, and many other all-American professions that capitalize on our wonderful obnoxious American brashness.

    We are raising kids to be exactly what we criticized the Japanese for in the 80s…

    So, yes, educate your kids, and let them take their risks, please! You can only protect them so long, and they need to understand acceptable risk to be good members of society — and active citizens in a democracy.

    The idea of absolute safety can be a really harmful delusion. Roots and wings, people!🙂

  4. Hi Linda (and John),

    Just wanted to comment from a teenagers point of view. I’m a 16 year old entrepreneur, and my startup is all about teenage media creation and distribution.

    Personally, I feel that tools like Facebook help teenagers get their word out. It gives them the ability to speak their minds in ways that blogs don’t. Being able to communicate closely with fellow teenagers is very important especially in the young age.

    I do feel that Facebook is much safer then MySpace, and I personally am strictly against MySpace. I think Facebook vs MySpace: Teens Point of View is a blog post in its self🙂 Anyways… great post! Looking forward to more!

  5. hi daniel, thanks for reading! I would love to connect with u more & hear ur thoughts! Your generation is leading the way, we have a lot to learn from u. Looking f/w to chatting more on FB!

  6. Linda-
    Great summary of the presentation! I walked away feeling very much the same- that the Facebook rep was essentially selling the site and that the concerns of parents regarding how to guide our children in using this powerful communication tool were not directly addressed. I agree it’s up to us to stay in touch with what our children are doing on Facebook and provide guidance along the way. Thanks~

  7. Linda – great post… I totally agree with your comments that parenting keeps kids safe. And, until about a week ago, I couldn’t agree with you more that facebook is ok for kids but, After searching for 2 years, I recently found a site for kids that has all the function of myspace and facebook but with necessary restrictions. It is called iklickz.com. It has tons of safeguards and my kids still love it….. I don’t like the 10,000 degrees of friendship on facebook for my kids. Now, I monitor but with piece of mind. Thanks for the great article.

  8. i just worry about having “peace” not “piece” of mind when who know who is starting all these new anti-facebook supposedly child friendly sites. it might actually be people who want to lure in children. at least facebook and myspace are publicly owned or managed.

  9. Thanks Bridget – I went on to iklickz today. What a cool site. My husband and I have been looking for something like this… Thanks again

  10. After reading the concerned mom’s comments, I too am leary of iklickz. Thank you for shedding the light on this topic,”concerned mom” is correct. I’ll stick with Club Penquin for my kids

  11. Wow, great points! Thanks for this post Linda, keep them coming!
    I’m going to link this up on our Mobile Connect Facebook page and Tweet it out🙂
    Have a good one,
    Elizabeth

  12. Great post by a concerned parent. Parents cannot monitor kids on every upcoming social networking website. But it is also true that kids in this Internet age must learn by interacting over a good and controlled social networking website. I think we need different level of controls for different ages of kids. For example, for kids of elementry school age, parents should be able to decide which social networking site their kid sign up to. This control cannot be achieved by useless controls provided by myspaces or facebooks. The “control” is against their biz model. We need some control in browsers, such as one demonstrated by parentapproval.com
    Hope this type of control is available in all browsers, in addition to limit on browsing time as introduced in Vista.

  13. Hi,

    I am too a mother of a young child who would like to have a facebook account like me but is too young. Therefore I have come up with a website safe for kids. They can play games, watch children’s videos and make friends. Just like the real facebook but safe. We monitor the chat, messages and everything else that is going on.
    We have build this side with elgg software which is used by all the leading educational institutes. You can look them up on the internet.
    Why don’t you have a look for yourself and decide. facebookforkids.com or fbfkids.com

  14. I tried to push my son to yoursphere but he likes fbfkids.com Other sites have a mixed message.

    Get Discovered! But dont worry parents its really private with lots of safeguards.

    so who is discovering the kids? sinister.

  15. I loved your closing comments on the Facebook/Parenting issue. I actually want to quote your blog on a news story I am doing for Channel 11 – CBS in Dallas, TX.

    With your permission, I’d like to use your closing paragraph and provide your credit.

    Below:

    My take: This is a new parenting frontier – an opportunity. We are two steps behind our kids, even if we think we know what they are doing online. It is a parent’s responsibility to discipline (Latin root = teach) our children how to protect themselves. Many kids balk at the idea of sharing their online communications with parents. Until my children are 18, I am the authority. We need to set expectations for our kids & walk them through this uncharted territory with guidelines. Parents: require your children to share passwords with you. Set time aside to see what your children are doing online. Invite them to browse through their accounts with you. Ask questions and really listen

    ———————————————–
    Please email me by COB tomorrow (sorry, were on deadline) and let me know if you prefer I dont.

    Many thanks,
    Mark Bunting

  16. A good, clear article. As a parent of teenagers I certainly take my responsibility as the last authority seriously, however I find that with my over 14 years olds, it’s much more effective to take a collaborative approach rather than dictate. In other words I do everything you suggest in the article except insist on sharing passwords. My daughter shares hers without a problem. My older son, would rather die first. Instead once in a while he shows me his FB pages while shoulder to shoulder. But then he has proven to be a trustworthy young man. So I can’t say the same goes for all parental situations. How we decide to handle this brave new world issue is very dependent on individual circumstances and is just one aspect of being a good, responsible parent, not the whole enchilada.

  17. Dr Aletta,

    Yes, thank you for reminding us that parenting is “collaborative”, and yes we do have to shift, alter, tailor styles with each child. I wrote this blog months ago & since my teenagers have become less open with their information. I do find that sitting with them shoulder to shoulder not only facilitates conversation, it also shows them that they can trust me not to violate their privacy. Cyber bullying will be analyzed closely in the next year, and there will be many suggested solutions. As a parent I can do my part by being present online with my kids. Thanks!

  18. Dear Linda,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. Parenting doesn’t get any easier does it? Thanks for having the courage to tackle a difficult topic.

    Your article is linked to a related article I just posted on my blog http://www.ewnblog.com. ‘To Be or Not to Be My Kid’s Friend on Facebook.’ I’d be honored if you took a look.

  19. Nowadays, social media platforms are on the rise. And if we can’t control our kids from joining them. At least, we parents should warn them from the risks they might encounter in the online world. I advice the parents to join Facebook; in this way they’ll have a wider perspective on the benefits and disadvantages of their kids joining FB.

  20. there’s also negative impact of facebook that we should consider like information disclosure: pictures which can be used by someone else for improper aims

  21. september 4,2010 Keri this is not for it is for Ashleigh.Dear Ashleigh something is wrong without you. I had three dremes about you and my fourth graed teacher is mean to Landon is even more dumbheaded I jist mess you alot. Pleas reply your frend Josh

  22. There’s a great new book called, Unblocked: The Blocked Side of Facebook, which shows the real side of Facebook for teenagers. This is the side of Facebook parents don’t see. Please if you have a teenager or soon to be teenager – this is a must read! As a bonus there’s a Slang and Emoticon Dictionary in the back of the book. For a short time Amazon is offering $5off Unblocked at https://www.createspace.com/3689179.
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