Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ahh Facebook: The Strange (Dangerous?) Case of Tweens Online

Last year, Facebook was all the rage among the fifth grade crowd. Why? Farmville. No more no less - sending Mystery Gifts, planting crops and decorating the farm. Over time, Farmville got old (and they pretty much made it so complicated it's no fun anymore anyway) and the kids got older.

Yeah, I know, they aren't supposed to be on Facebook before age 13.

We parents went along with it because with this generation of kids, we are actually closed involved with their Facebook pages. We are "friends" with them, have their passwords and can monitor content. And it all started out so innocently. And it's a great way for them to have relationships with family members who aren't close to home. 

But as the kids have gotten a little older, things have changed. I closely monitor her page to see what her friends are doing.

Many of them are just posting YouTube videos and "fan"ing lame pages like I-Hate-When-My-Mom-Turns-Off-the-TV or Getting-Teachers-To-Tell-Stories-Until-Class-Is-Over.  It all seems harmless enough except they are giving all those pages, and contests, and applications and creepy advertisers their personal information with every click. But that's not what worries me.

What does bother me is the public display of growing pains.

We all know being a tween sucks in many ways. You are bouncing back and forth between childhood and adulthood. Your body is going through insane changes and feelings become intensified. There's a great blog focusing on the challenges of parenting and raising a tween. Now that the tweenage drama is playing out on Facebook and I am pulling back big time on Katie's access.

The first thing I noticed was the language. They are starting to talk like grown-ups in a bar or an episode of The League. Raunchy, bad and even racial slurs (apparently Willow Palin isn't alone - not at all).

The second thing was the sexual innuendo. These kids are 11 years old. Most still have bodies that look like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. They don't know anything but they like to play like they do. What 11 year old needs that in their life?

But the last thing was this post: "Today I seriously thought about ending my life. Seriously."

This was from a girl the kids have talked about before mostly because they can't figure her out. I take suicide very seriously and I hope to goodness her mother or friends are monitoring her Facebook. But I don't need my kid caught up in this stuff. And it will catch her - she's a bleeding heart for helping others. Clearly there's more going on here than 11 year olds can deal with.

So yep; this morning I shut down the tween drama.

I didn't remove friends because I didn't want to make it a big deal. I just created White List and put them all on there. Then I changed her privacy settings to allow posts to be viewed by friends but not friends on the White List. Finally, I hid the friends' posts that Katie simply doesn't need to see.
So why keep Facebook at all?

It's a really good way for her to keep in touch with family from around the country and to follow a few things she really cares about including our local marine lab, a couple colleges, her favorite camp, etc. I like her to keep up with what they are doing and it's appropriate content.

How-to White List Friends

First click on Friends on the left nav bar. Then click Edit Friends at the top of the list in the center of the page. Once there, Create a List (name it) and then start putting people on The List.

After that part is done, go to Account on the upper left and choose Privacy Settings. For a kid I highly recommend they are all set to Friends Only.  In this case, I Customize Settings for all her public information and added The List cannot see information.

How-to Hide Friends

This one is easy. Simply move your mouse over to the left of a Friend's post. A little "x" appears. Click that and you have a choice, Hide This Post, Hide All Posts (From This Person). Choose Hide All. You can always get it back by going to the bottom of the Wall and clicking on Edit Options. Note, this little "x" is also where you can Unlike a page.


  1. how sad. that's an 11 year old talking? :(

    Personally, I think young kids need more family time than constant connection with peers, but it's a new world now, isn't it? hard to turn back the hands of time.

  2. I agree. But so many kids just dont have it (for oh so many reasons). I so appreciate your comment.

  3. i have found that the more parents use control and distrust in interaction with their kids, the more kids eventually learn to hide their activities and social connections from their parents. instead of limiting and controlling, i connect, discuss, and support.

    when my daughter was 11 or 12 (she's 15.5 now), a similar thing happened with a child expressing suicidal thoughts to her online. she came STRAIGHT to me and asked for my advice and support. THAT is what i want to have happen - if she had been afraid i'd limit and control her internet access if she shared that, she never would have shared it. and another child might have been in serious trouble and not received help.

    also, when they enter into this tween age, they are preparing to be in the adult world and their concerns tend to follow suit. this will happen whether or not access is removed. the thoughts and concerns don't vacate the premises.

    here's a great article on the competence of teens - preteens are only slightly behind teens!


  4. I would agree with the last comment. :) My 11 year old has control over his own access to his computer and the television, the internet.

    Similarly, had I restricted or limited his control over that, he would be unable to come to me to ask for help and support in navigating his way through the internet. Without ever having to spy on him for even a moment, he has come to me over every questionable interaction, if he has any doubts about a meaning, or a site, what words and comments mean, how to differentiate what is kind and how to cope with what is not -- I am his complete ally and partner in this. And it's largely because I do not judge what he is doing, but offer support to find the kinds of things he enjoys and help him navigate through them. And I listen a lot. :)

    If he asks me for a private moment, I trust him fully, that he knows what he needs at that moment. I do not assume he's using it to do something "behind my back"... there just isn't any need.

    And, it is a different kind of world now. Children are confronted with a barrage of sensory input, and that is not going away, nor would they want portions of it to go away (nor would I, frankly). I believe it's healthier to allow them to fully engage and to support them through the process in a trusting, loving way.

    I feel it would break that trusting relationship with my children to impose my judgments, and ultimately make them afraid to trust me, which *will* make them turn away from me.

    Loving engagements and non judgmental support will naturally lead to responsible autonomy in the long run, and without breaking trust.