A few of my friends have made comments, even slightly ridiculed us, when they see my teenage kids and myself talking to each other on Facebook. For some reason they assume we should not have a connection on Facebook. I think this is a dangerous position for parents to take and are very happy that my kids have me in their Facebook life.
Facebook has taken this generation by storm, and I don’t know if it will last, morph into something else, or be completely dropped but I do know that it is a part of my kids’ lives now. Initially, when my kids first opened a Facebook account I required that I was their friend – and because of the strong relationship we have (in real life) this was not a problem to them. Being their ‘friend’ on Facebook was twofold. One, for safety issues, I wanted to know what they were exposed to and I wanted to be there to help them process the good, bad and ugly. Secondly, I wanted to be there because this was a part of their life, this was going to be like a book they read, a movie the saw, a conversation they had – and I wanted to be a part of this part of their life.
This could sound like helicopter parenting – hovering, protecting, restricting. But no. Like I said, initially it was for safety, now as they have grown older there remains an element of accountability (and that is good for us all, regardless of our age) and the stronger reason we connect online is simply an extension of a real life relationship.
Connecting on Facebook, in our family, is an extension of conversations that go on in the home. It hasn’t replaced them, but in some ways it has expanded them. Facebook, for all it’s weaknesses, is an exposure to ideas so we discuss these things – the serious, the important, the silly and the ridiculous. Cutting myself off from those things that my kids see would be cutting my nose off to spite my face! We discuss the social quandaries that online relationships raise; we discuss issues of discernment and wisdom, of leaving a digital footprint. We discuss stuff around the table, in the hallway, in the car – much like we discuss the books they’ve read, the movies they’ve seen, the ideas they’ve either thought about or talked about with others.
Another aspect I enjoy is using Facebook much like mums of days gone would pop a note in a lunch box. I’ve been able to share a Bible verse that to the world looks just like a Bible verse, but because of the conversations we’ve been having my son or daughter knows the encouragement it is supposed to bring. I can share inspiring quotes to confirm ideas my kids have been talking about, I can share recipes, craft ideas, organisational or thrifty tips or for my son – quirky philosophical thoughts – all sorts of things that my kids are interested in. And as I do, I have an opportunity to say to them, I know you, I love you and accept your interests in life.
Then there is another side to why I like talking to my kids on Facebook – people see us having a relationship. This is a good thing. We don’t see enough of healthy parent/teen relationships in real life, let alone online. People see us having a real relationship when we are down the street, when we are at community functions, when we are at church or at a friend’s place. My kids and I are great friends (age appropriately) and it shows as we interact with each other and others. Facebook is just one other sphere of friends, or one other location or activity we get involved in and because we are both there – we are going to act like friends, we are going to share some of life together.
I hope our friendship will encourage others to consider being involved in their teens’ lives online (if their kids are online).
Any conversation about Facebook needs to have a postscript added to encourage the reader consider context. Just because I see some positives in using Facebook, there are also the negatives. Just because my kids have a Facebook account, doesn’t mean there aren’t any boundaries. The other thing to remember when reading this is the ages of my kids – Josh is 20, Jess 19, Nomi 16, Daniel 14. Josh and Jess have different freedoms than Nomi and Daniel. Daniel doesn’t actually have a Facebook account even though he is of a ‘legal’ age to do so. Every family needs to consider Facebook, its benefits and its concerns, with an open and yet informed mind. What works in one family won’t work in another, what works with one child, won’t be appropriate for another. I have shared this aspect of Facebook in our family to add to the discussions that you may be having, or need to have, as your grow with your family.