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A decade ago, reading your teen’s diary would have been the ultimate form of privacy invasion. Nowadays, checking out their Facebook page or Twitter feed can yield the same sense of betrayal -- if they don’t know you’re doing so. So how does a parent protect their kids from the dangers lurking on the Internet? The answer may be to join them online.
Sites like Facebook are appealing to kids and adults alike (as evidenced by the number of your old high school classmates who’ll inevitably friend you when you sign up), so your kids won’t take issue with you having an account. The question is whether your should “friend” them. If you’re worried about the amount of time they’re spending online (and what parent isn’t?), go ahead and send them a friend request or start following them on Twitter. But do so with the agreement that you won’t do the following:
- Scold or reprimand them on their wall. You may be upset that they forgot to unload the dishwasher or didn’t take out the garbage, but Facebook and Twitter is not the place to air those feelings. Discuss the issue the old-fashioned way -- face to face.
- Comment on their posts. You may be proud of the “A” they got on their latest math test or think the YouTube video of a cat singing the national anthem is just as hilarious as they do, but there’s no need to voice your opinion online. The more unobtrusive you are, the more likely your kids are to forget that you’re monitoring their activity.
- Friend or follow their friends. Your own kids probably aren’t thrilled that you’re a part of their social network, but they don’t really have a choice in the matter. But their friends are off-limits. Not only can friending their friends be a little creepy, but it’s also unnecessary. If you’re connected to your own child’s account, you’ll be able to see what their friends are posting as well.
In the end, even though the Internet can seem so anonymous, be transparent with your kids about your wanting to connect with them online. And when in doubt, follow the golden rule of friending them or commenting on their wall: Treat them how you’d want to be treated if you were them.
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