The Facebook Dilemma

A network of church artists has invited me to join them on Facebook. I am wide open to this way of connecting and networking, but I do have one problem – my teenage daughters. They are actually horrified that someone my age is considering joining the Facebook revolution because in their view, this network belongs exclusively to their generation. They turned me down when I asked to be their “friend”, saying it was just weird and their sites are private, like a journal. When some adults asked my daughters to be their “Facebook friend”, my girls found this very odd and uncomfortable.

Here’s what I think might happen (though I’m not gifted at forecasting the future). If more and more adults keep building Facebook networks, the young people will find another way to do their connecting on the web. I don’t see them too excited about sharing their sites when it all began with college students and used to feel like their unique and treasured domain.

Does anyone else come up against this dilemma? If I join Facebook, will anyone under 30 be “my friend?” Does Facebook need to be one more area in which the generations feel divided? Let me know what you think…


R said...

My husband and I have been youth ministers for years and he is currently a high school bible teacher. We are both 26. I don't think that making young "friends" will be a problem as it can be a good networking tool.

The main comment I wanted to make is about your daughters pages. As a youth minister and youth pastor my husband and I were always educating parents about sites like facebook and myspace. We always insisted that parents need to visit their child's page regularly and that they need to know the password so that they can lock it down if need be.

Basically, many of the parents were shocked some of the admissions and false information they had found on their child's site. These kids were Christian kids that had been in church all of their lives and were just making unwise choices. Other students, just gave too much information about themselves thus putting themselves in danger of child predators and stalkers.

I even had to share with my 23yr old sister that maybe she shouldn't have:
-That she was single and looking
-The picture of her in the swimsuit
-The name of her college dorm
-Her full name
When she put the whole picture together, she understood the danger and adjusted her page. We all need accountability and we all make unwise decisions.

Facebook should not be used as --and-- is not the same as a diary because it is NEVER private. Even if they limit the audience, it was created to be a venue for sharing information and pictures.

Parents just need to be aware of how their children are presenting themselves publicly. I am not saying "Don't give them their privacy" I am saying "There is a danger here, protect your children by having access to their pages. They do deserve privacy, that can be allotted in other venues. Buy them a journal for their secret thoughts and dreams, don't listen in on their phone calls and encourage them to use sites like myspace and facebook responsibly."

Eric Frisch said...

I'm 21... I have lots of friends on Facebook who are significantly older than me... including coworkers, teachers, and parents of friends. From my perspective, it's not that big a deal. I do, however, avoid accepting friend requests from those significantly YOUNGER than me (kids from the camp I counsel at, students from the youth group, etc...) Facebook is, in general, a fairly adult place in my mind, and there are quite a few ways that OTHER people can influence your page, so I try to keep it a little more protected in that way.

Anonymous said...

Dear R;

I agree 100% with your opinion on this matter. I am a parent of 2 teenage daughters and I know they have facebook accounts. The trouble is, how to obtain their passwords. If I ask them they say "Mom, no ... it's just for me and my friends." It's also easy for them to change passwords should I be able to find out what theirs are.

Any suggestions?

Concerned Mom

Anonymous said...

I'd wonder why they want it to be private? In my opinion that is somewhat of a 'red flag'.

R said...

Being honest and open in situations like this is always the best way to go.

Sit the whole family down and remind them of your love and that you are implementing a new family policy in effort to protect them from numerous dangers-- some they have probably heard about and some they may not have considered.

You can then simply explain the dangers of face book, xanga and myspace.

Some Possible Dangers:

-Identity theft (pet's name, favorite band, hometown)

-Child predators (school and first name or town and last name or picture and town/school)

-Stalkers (similar to above)

-Damaging Rumors (We have had a few absolutely inconsolable young women who's friends either knew their passwords and played a joke on them or were jealous and used their site to damage them or shared private or false information about them on another's site etc. This can easily damage their delicate social circles and self esteem.)

I think the ideal family policy should be--

"If you would like to have this type of site, I need to have the password."

At your discretion, you may choose to mention that there are documented cases of murder and/or rape that have been connected with all three sites.

According to a MSNBC article about facebook users specifically,
* 70% put their first name
* 67% put their age
* 61% put their contact info
* 59% put their location
* 44% put their email address
* 44% put IM name
* 39% put birth date
* 20% put their full name

Also facebook's privacy policy allows them to pass on personal information to third party companies.

Some employers and colleges have begun using sites like facebook and myspace as a type of background check on prospective students/ employees.

One thing that your children may bring up about facebook specifically is that they have a setting that allows only people from your school and people that you "friend" to see your page.

This is a false protection. It is very simple to get around those settings and it does not protect you from peers intent on harm.

If we are talking about college students, numerous rapes happen on college campus' every year. Not all the student's on campus are trustworthy people.

If your children take issue with that comment, every college is required to submit an annual crime report to the government. You can find the reports online. You will see that the rates on campus are usually much higher than the rates of the surrounding communities.

The point of all of this is that young people do not always accurately asses the dangers involved in decisions they make. As their parents, teachers, pastors and accountability partners, we need to educate and protect them.

One last comment...
Even if you have a very "internet safety educated" child who does keep personal information private, they all have links to friends pages posted on their page. I could click on the link to their friend "Sarah's" page and she may have posted a comment about seeing your daughter at lunch tomorrow. I would know that they go to the same school. Something the kids may not think about.

Even if they are reasonably responsible kids, it is good for you to have access.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 48 year old man and I have a facebook account. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family who live far away.

I have 2 teenage daughters and they also have facebook accounts. One of my daughters has me as a friend on her account. The other does not. We monitor what they are doing when possible and have some general rules, like; No internet when no one is home. Teenagers are pretty savvy though and I am sure there is loads of stuff they hide from me. I think that's part of growing up. Hopefully you have given them a few "tools" by this point in their lives to help them make some informed choices.

If you are the type of parent that would read their diary or go through their personal things to find out what they are up to then sure, get their facebook and myspace account passwords (but you probably will have larger problems if you don't already)...
We prefer to keep an ongoing dialog with our kids about what is going on in their lives. We also keep the computer(s) very visable in the house, out of private areas of the house (like their rooms). We also talk openly about issues such as predators on the net (and at school and at church).
It's a big world out there. I don't think you can hide yourself away.

dave_in_ontario said...

I think the bigger questions for me are: "Do I have my childrens' [including young adults'] hearts?

And can they be honest with me in all realms of their lives?

Dave in Kitchener, ON