Facebook and your Tween and Teen
The Positive Stuff
I was a late comer to facebook, I joined after my daughter, who was then aged 13, requested a page. For the first 18 months I had about five friends and only visited it to keep abreast of what was happening on my daughters page.
She connected with friends that were now at different schools, followed and posted some pretty cool stuff about volunteering fundraising and her interests and convinced me to make use of facebook to connect with others too - which I have and now enjoy it.
Some parents are concerned about permitting their son or daughter to join facebook and of course there is an age restriction. However I took the view that she had been responsible enough to discuss it with me and the benefits for her outweighed my concerns.
Just under a year ago her sister, now also thirteen wanted to set up facebook as well and pretty much, for her, the same positive outcomes - she is less active and prefers the games that are available. Indeed I also have become addicted to bubble witch.
Through the facebook pages I have been able to keep in touch with the girls and their friends and see what interests and inspires them.
Towards the end of grade eight my daughter got into some pretty negative stuff with another girl. They had been friends but fell out quite badly. Unfortunately they both chose to have a public fight on facebook. The "fight" was brought to my attention by a friend and I was quite disturbed how equally the insults flew back and forth between the girls cheered on in some cases and peer criticized in others.
I wrote an email letter to my daughter, as she happened to be at her Dad's home for the weekend that this occured. I explained how I felt about what I had read and asked her how she thought she was now perceived and could be perceived by people who didn't know her, especially future employers or places that she might volunteer. This was a sobering thought for her and it was apparent by our later conversation that the teenage brain was at it worst and she hadn't considered how public facebook in fact is..
Our local pool offers a teen night on Fridays and my daughter posted that she and her friends were going. A local boy then posted some really disgusting verbage as a comment about what he was going to say to the girls when he saw them at the pool. My daughter let me know and assured me he was an idiot and that they would be avoiding him. I chose to message him and admonish him for his language letting him know that future comments like this weren't OK and he would be dealing with me if he continued to post such comments.
Unfortunately there are other examples of teen and tween behaviour which is much worse and has resulted in self harm and in the worst cases suicide by young people who have been bullied.
Conclusions - my opinion
Like it or hate it facebook and other social media is here to stay. In my opinion facebook can offer healthy sharing, entertaining and learning opportunities. Denying a tween or teen a facebook page may push them to create a secret page to which you have no access. This may come about due to peer pressure and or wanting not to be left out.
The old saying it takes a community to raise a child is true also of facebook. I appreciated the friend who let me know about the "fight" my daughter was having and I hope the young man who I wrote to about foul language will take note that I am watching. Sadly many young people have all the electronics money can buy but no parent who cares enough to spend the time guiding and encouraging him or her.
It is my hope that if we all engage in social media activities positively we will create a model for behaviour and influence our tweens and teens how to deal with conflict, appropriate uses etc etc. and encourage multi-generational sharing.