Don’t get too friendly with your kids on Facebook

Mark Buser, left, and his wife Janeth with Janeth’s children Brianna McCaffery, 14, and Ryan McCaffery, 12, at their home in Springettsbury Township (Photo by Kate Penn).

Gone are the days when you’d whip out your wallet to share photos of your precious baby John.

The minute he’s born, you can take a photo on your smartphone and upload it to Facebook.

“It’s a boy!” the caption reads. And that’s how it starts.

In the many days and years ahead, Johnny’s photos are plastered online.

Then he turns 13. Suddenly, he can post his own photos and choose whether or not to “friend” you.

We asked Shane Jones, an Internet marketing specialist at WebPageFX in Carlisle, the do’s and don’ts of Facebook parenting.

1. How early should parents start posting photos of their child? Is it OK to post photos when they’re still in the womb?

I think it’s probably safe to start posting photos of children at any point. … If they’re in the womb, I don’t think too many people have a problem with the sharing. Just keep in mind the average tastes of people, and don’t push the boundaries. We want to see the adorable photos of your latest child. Just make sure they aren’t still connected to the umbilical cord!

2. How far is too far for kid photos? E.g. OK to post toddler’s first use of the toilet, or first bath?

Just ask your (older) children before you share it, it’s as easy as that. If they don’t want it up, then don’t put it up, but if it’s a fun family photo go for it. Anything slightly embarrassing is probably too much, unless they give you the OK. Also, your own friends don’t want to see what your kid produced in the toilet. So my suggestion, always just ask.

If (your kids) are too young to have an opinion, try to keep it to pictures that you would only take in public anyway. Pictures you take within the confines of your home are generally a little more personal and riskier.

3. When kids are old enough to be on Facebook, should you friend them?

Depending on a child’s age, it is OK to friend them, and also depending on the relationship you have with that child. But Facebook social protocols insinuate that the choice should be up to the kid.

… Another thing to keep in mind: Never, ever scold your children or attempt to discipline or call them out through their social networks. You’ll only alienate them more, and your words won’t make an impact.

4. Once kids become adults, any tips on how parents can deal with seeing college party photos?

Your best bet is to simply take the time to talk to your kid face to face. Remind them that social networks, while they are a lot of fun, are also an amazing tool to build their own online resume — a working database that shows off the positive traits of a person, and showcases your ability to interact with others in a positive light.

Remind them that schools, employers and financial institutions all look at that information, and that it’s important to keep in mind that how you behave online, should be handled similarly to how you behave in public.

5. Any tips for kids on how to continue to use social media to check in on mom and dad?

If kids are just looking for ways to keep in touch with mom and dad when they’re away or at school, social networks definitely make it easier. While all of the aforementioned advice should be considered, if you have a great relationship with your child, it’s important to keep it going.

Facebook chat makes it super easy, and Twitter is a great network as well. When your kids are at school, plan little 15-minute chat sessions when they are free, so that you can be active with them online, without making it public to all of their friends.

Readers weigh in

Our readers responded to this question: “What boundaries do you set for interacting with your kids on Facebook?”

Brian Albin: It is understandable that teenagers do not want parents as FB friends. Parents and grandparents can be very “uncool” with comments to pictures or status updates. I believe, however, that parents have the right to know the password or have the child log on to FB at anytime for a review of messages/status updates, etc.

Healther Baughman: Our daughter is OK (with) having us as Facebook friends. We definitely set boundaries way before we let her have an account. We do not need to know the password. We can just have her log on and look at her stuff. It starts out with trust and an open relationship with our daughter. She knows we can look at it at anytime.

Chrissy Schultz Sparks: My daughter is 9, and she doesn’t have Facebook. And we don’t plan on letting her anytime soon.

Facebook facts

  1. 73 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have at least one social networking profile
  2. 7.3 million is the number of U.S. kids younger than 13 on Facebook, despite restrictions.

Jess Krout

Multiplatform features copy editor at York Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter @JessKrout. Email jkrout@ydr.com or call 717-771-2002.

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1 Response

  1. Janelle Coolbaugh says:

    When our daughter wanted to be on Facebook, the rule was she had to friend her parents. However, we have also had a conversation regarding what is posted on FB. As a family, we believe differences should be resolved in the privacy of our home – not aired on Facebook. In addition, I have told my daughter that I love and and would never intentionally post something to hurt or embarrass her. If I do, she knows all she has to do is come talk to me and ask me to take it down and I will.

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