Tech-Savvy Daddy: Connecting on Facebook
Facebook and other online social networks are a “brave new world” that can be intimidating for a lot of parents. 78% of teenagers have a social media account (the vast majority of those are on Facebook). Dads have to be tech-savvy to keep up with their teens. But how do you get on the same page with your kids (and not just the same webpage)? How do you protect your children from the dangers of the internet?
Whether the world of social networks sounds like a foreign land that you’ve lost your children to or whether you’ve immersed yourself in social networks already, we’ve got some tips to help you learn the language and explore the terrain as a family.
Getting on the Same Page
Your kids might be begging you to let them open a Facebook account, or they might spending every waking moment on the site. Either way, it’s important to establish an agreement as a family on how you use social media. Here are our tips for how to get on the same page:
Connecting online with your kids
- Find out what they know and think about Facebook: Depending on their age, your kids probably have friends who are on Facebook and talk about it. If your kids are younger and/or not on Facebook, ask them what they know about it, how their friends use it, and what they think of Facebook. They could be feeling pressure from peers to join Facebook. It’s important to be aware of that so you can help them understand how to respond to peer pressure of any kind.
- Involve them in personal privacy policies: If you’re planning on joining Facebook to connect with your friends (or already have an account), ask your kids their opinion on how much personal information you should post publicly. Your kids will appreciate getting to switch roles and advise you on something, and it will help give you a chance to talk with them about the potential risks of sharing personal information on online.
- Create a Family Internet Agreement: Decide as a family when your children are allowed to join Facebook, how much time they’re allowed to spend online, and rules for using the internet (i.e. no Facebook till homework is done). Let your kids share their opinion and talk about your expectations and concerns. Come to a mutual understanding. Take a look at the Family Media Agreement provided by Common Sense Media for children aged K-5th grade. It provides a list of online media topics to begin discussing with your kids and a checklist for establishing healthy and safe online habits.
If your kids are on Facebook, you should open an account too. It might feel like you're invading your teen's online space, but you can use Facebook as a way to connect with him or her and build common ground.
- Be Friends: Friend your kids. Friend their friends. Don’t be shy! Yeah, it might feel like you’re “stalking” your kids, but it’s your job as a parent to be aware of what is going on in your children’s lives. So much of teenagers’ relationships take place online now, so it’s good idea to be in that space with them. Talk to your teens about this – let them know that you’re not trying to spy on them, but that you want to be aware of what’s going on in their life because you care about them.
- Engage on Facebook: Use Facebook as a communication tool to let your kids know you love them. Write on your teen’s wall to say “I’m excited to watch your band concert this weekend!” or “You look great in your new profile picture.”
- Talk about what happens on Facebook: Things that you see on Facebook can be a great starting point for conversations with your teens – in person! It might be anything from “hey, I noticed on Facebook that your friends on the soccer team won districts – that’s great!” to “It looks like your friend Amy broke up with her boyfriend. How’s she doing with that?” If you see behavior or posts by your teen or his/her friends that concerns you, you need to talk about that too and revisit what is and is not appropriate or safe.
- Help your kids understand how they’re portraying themselves online: What do her pictures say about her? What do his posts communicate about how he thinks? Talk to your teen about the kind of reputation he wants to have and how his online behavior shapes that. Remind your teen that potential employers or college admissions officers look at Facebook profiles of applicants and he/she shouldn’t post anything that could affect his or her application.
- Discuss the importance of real life relationships: Talk with your kids about the value of face-to-face time in building genuine relationships and how online communication can limit relationships. Follow through on that by spending time with your teen!
By the way, National Fatherhood Initiative is on Facebook, too. We’re using that social network as another way to get helpful information to dads to enable them to connect with their kids. Join our community at www.facebook.com/nationalfatherhoodinitiative