(Reposted from this site on February 2015).
There are always many opinions on this topic and I believe that each family has their own individual thoughts for what works best for them and their teenager, but when I read a recent post on one of my favorite sites, Grown and Flown, I had to share it with my readers.
Here are 8 reasons you may want to consider not connecting with your teen on Facebook:
It’s not that I don’t want my kids to be my Facebook friends. I would love it if they wanted to share their most embarrassing moments with me and only wish they granted me access to the details of their high school and college lives. Clearly I would love nothing better than to peer into their Snapchats or stalk their GroupMes.
But the parenting part of me that would love a window into their social media battles everyday with the other parenting part of me: the one that is proud that my kids are grown and have lives of their own. These two warring halves of motherhood, the half that wants to know and the half that feels I shouldn’t, are locked in a fierce battle and I have declared my childrens’ privacy the victor. There are times I am envious of moms who have access to their kids online lives but, for me, here are eight compelling reasons to avoid the temptation.
- It is their world.
Social media is akin to the notes we once passed in class and the secrets we whispered into the wall-mounted phone. It is both the gossip mill of the playground and the private missives between friends and I need to let my kids find their way. They deserve the same privacy we had even if the platform for that has changed.
2. I would be even more embarrassing to them if we were Facebook friends.
For many years my kids were embarrassed that I even existed. The last thing they needed was that embarrassment in real life and cyberspace.
- It might be time to move on.
Although I want to stalk my sons, dropping into their lives the view the photos of their every move, I question my motives. The journey to the empty nest has not been an easy one for me and I don’t feel the relief that some other parents do that my kids have left home. Despite that, I know that in some ways, for them and me, it is time to move on. By not being able to follow them on social media, I am probably doing all of us a favor.
- It’s time to get off the “roller coaster.”
Do I really want to ride the rollercoaster of the ups and downs of teen and young adult life at the granular level? In her wonderful piece about how to parent teens and young adults, Lisa Belkin advises parents to get off the roller coaster. We should not need be their seatmates as they ride every up and down of their lives. We can be the supportive, constructive adults without living through their every emotional moment. Staying on the ground is much easier to do if you are not with them on Facebook.
- They need to navigate on their own.
At first I thought social media and teens were a toxic and frightening combination. But I have come to believe that if billions of people can handle this challenge, so can my kids. Reflecting my own naiveté, I thought there were bad guys online who would seek out my kids through their Facebook accounts. Soon I saw that, just as kids of my generation were allowed to wander free, with our parents giving us rules and advice about dangers and strangers, my kids would need to learn to wander online without me.
- They can run and hide.
Stalking my kids on Facebook was never going to turn up their misdeeds or anything, in fact, that they did not want me to know. Teens trying to hide something from their parents have plenty of digital techniques and places to do so. If I insist that they friend me on Facebook, they can move to Instagram, and if I hunt them down there they can scurry to Snapchat. They will always find a social media platform, (Ello, anyone?) that I have not yet discovered.
- Online there is no context.
Have you ever seen a teenage drama online and worried frantically only to discover it was over in an hour? I once called the mother of one of my then middle school son’s friends to tell her I had seen a message the daughter had left for my son (on my computer) which said, “I am going to have to kill myself.” I was wreck all night and could not sleep. First thing in the morning I called the girl’s mother, reasoning that I would not be able to live with myself otherwise. The mother of this girl laughed and said that the phrase was every other word out of her daughter’s mouth. I wondered if I really wanted to know what they say online when I have no context for it in real life.
- Staying off their social media does not mean disconnecting technologically.
My kids and I are in an endless conversation via text and my window onto their world is widened with a stream of amusing, poignant and pedestrian photos they share with me. When something makes them smile, reminds them of home or they are just looking for my opinion, I get pictures. Sure the content is curated just for mom, but I am wondering if that isn’t just as it should be.
Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Endlich Heffernan are the voices behind Grown and Flown: Parenting from the Empty Nest. They have 93 years of parenting experience with five kids between their two families. Mary Dell has a MBA from Harvard Business School and worked at NBC, Discovery, and Lifetime. Lisa has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and worked as a Wall Street trader before becoming an author of three books including NYT Business Bestseller, Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success. You can follow them on @grownandflown or join in the conversation on Facebook.