Some of my best blog topics come from parent requests. In this case, a mom of a high school freshman said her son wants her to “unfriend” all of his friends on Facebook. While she understands his desire for privacy, she likes being kept in the loop and wonders what her response to him should be.
For those unfamiliar with how Facebook works, in order for two people to be Friends, both have to agree to it. One person sends a request asking to be added to the Friend list, and the other has to accept (or reject) the offer. This means that all of her son’s friends have consented to have her as a friend. This should be her first point: she did not force her Friends status on his friends; it was by mutual agreement.
Secondly, I’m assuming she pays for the internet. I always told my kids that as long as I was footing the bill for internet access (as well as purchasing the computers), I would have full access to everything they did. This meant giving me all their passwords if requested (and I only requested if I had just cause). If they didn’t like that rule, I was okay with that. They didn’t need to be on the internet if they didn’t want to be! (None of my kids ever objected.)
My suggestion is to strike a compromise. She can explain that while she understands that he wants his privacy, she enjoys seeing what he and his friends are up to. If he has something to hide, then there’s an issue they need to discuss. If not, then there’s no reason for her not to view their posts and photos. However, she could agree to read their status updates but not to comment on them.
When I objected to my kids about the language some of their friends were using, they told me that’s how it was on Facebook. They (respectfully) suggested that if it bothered me, I might not want to have an account. Point taken. I learned to hide the friends whose language or behavior bothered me, and I refrained from making any judgmental comments on their pages.
I respect a teenager’s need for privacy, and I don’t advocate reading all of their emails or texts (though I do advocate telling them it’s a possibility if there’s cause for alarm), but Facebook is a “social network,” which, according to dictionary.com, means an online community of people with a common interest who use a Web site or other technologies to communicate with each other and share information, resources, etc.
Parents just want to be social, too!