“Spacebook” is what my husband used to call Facebook before he knew what it was. Before he got addicted to it.
But he had a good reason for signing on: he felt so left out when I’d tell him what this son or that son had said, or when the boys and I would laugh together over a video somebody had posted. He finally got his own account – and then spent six months learning how to use it.
If you still don’t know what social networking is, you’re late for the party. Facebook and MySpace are here to stay, and most teens have pages on one or both.
I’ve found Facebook to be a really handy place for keeping in touch with both students and their parents. On a typical night I might tutor an algebra student, play scrabble with another (or two), advise a parent on how to handle a moody teen, and post a status with a funny comment made in class (“Oo! Is that Caddleberry chocolate?”).
Aside from school connections, Facebook has provided a way for me to keep in touch with former students (from all the way back to 1982), college buddies, my kids, my friends, and my kids’ friends, among others. I can strike up a conversation with a friend in New Orleans, or just check out the photos of my high school buddy’s newest grandchild.
For teens, chatting with friends is one of their lowest priorities. They’re busy posting videos and music, and checking out what their friends have posted. They love to join – or just “like” – groups with names like Mom/Dad, we’re in public…don’t….don’t do that…., Why are you sleeping in class? maybe because i wake up at 6 AM to come here, and Parents call it “Back Talk” we call it “explaining why their wrong”.
Some of them play games like “Bejeweled Blitz” and try to beat each other’s scores, while others prefer more involved games like “Mafia Wars” or “Farmville” where you try to get other people involved and accomplish specific tasks so you can advance. (Many adults play these games, too.)
Facebook is also a place to keep track of who’s going out with whom, or who’s just recently broken up. You can also find out which friends are having birthdays and leave greetings on their “walls.” It’s pure bliss to sign on when it’s your own birthday and see greetings from friends in far-off places who would never have bothered to send you a card (if they’d even known it was your birthday).
Myspace is a little like the darker cousin of Facebook. Because they know fewer adults have accounts, teens feel freer to use language and/or post pictures that might be considered inappropriate. Myspace also has a grittier, more urban feel (“graffiti-ish” is how one teen described it to me). When I’ve been asked to deal with drama from online chats gone bad, it’s more often on Myspace than on Facebook.
My point is that if your kids are hanging out via social networking, you should have at least some idea of what they’re doing. And the best way to do that is to get your own account. You don’t have to spend hours online; just check in once in awhile to see what’s going on. Become familiar with how it works, see who your teen’s friends are, have a peek at the photos posted there. If you discover your teen is engaging in behavior that doesn’t fit with your family’s standards, have a discussion about what’s inappropriate and take steps to correct it. You do have the ultimate say regarding what your teens do on the internet.
Oh – and if you want to see my Facebook page, just click here: http://www.facebook.com/sue.acuna (but you’ll have to sign up for your own account)!