One of the minor irritants in my life lately has been in regards to my son and what he posts on Facebook. If you want to get technical, he's not even supposed to have a Facebook page because he's still underage (I think the age is 13, and he's not quite there yet.) But the fact that my son has almost 400 Facebook friends, most of whom are middle school age, proves that this is an easy enough rule to get around. When he started up his account, Jay and I set up a couple of ground rules:
1. He has to be friends with me and Jay.
2. His FB account, much like his cell phone, Ipod, email account, and (still useless) Playstation network account, is subject to an impromptu inspection at any time. (I've never actually had to log in to his FB account to snoop because many of his friends' pages aren't private so in most cases I can check up on things on my own in a matter of minutes. But, as mom, I reserve the right to hijack the whole thing if I feel a need to.)
About once a week I look at his page, click on his friends pages and commence "snooping." For the most part, I'm not friends with any of his friends and I don't want to be, I don't post on his page, and I pretty much try to make my presence go unknown. I'm not trying to be the 'cool mom', I'm just trying to do my job as a parent. And mostly everything I find is harmless. There's probably a bit more cursing than I would like, but nothing that isn't typical of an almost thirteen year old boy.
Occasionally though, he'll post a comment so foolish or ignorant that I feel the need to speak up. Sometimes I mention it to him offline and in private, other times I'll call him on it right there on Facebook. Last night was one of those times. After it was announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, my son posted something so ignorant and uneducated that I felt the need to speak up. I'm not going to repost what he said here because it was just dumb. It wasn't even politically controversial, just really stupid, and I said as much on his page and then his dad and I had a discussion with him about it.
What's my point in writing about this then? Well, this got me to thinking that once something is put *out there* via Facebook (or a blog for that matter), it's out there for good. Even if you delete it, chances are someone saw it. This isn't anything new to me of course. I've been blogging for a few years now and there are times I've had to clarify my point because I didn't say things as eloquently as I could have. But usually, when I post something here, I've thought about it enough to feel confident in the way I write about it. I think that everything that I put into words here truthfully reflects the person that I am.
My issue is that a lot of what my son puts on Facebook doesn't reflect the person I know he is. So much of it is phony, foolish posturing in an attempt to appear a certain way to the folks whose opinions matter a lot to him right now-his peers, other teens and pre teens acting just as stupid as he is. I know that this behaviour is typical of a twelve year old but it still bugs me that it has to be manifest in a way that is so public, to be read by anyone with an internet connection.
I'm sure when I was twelve I did and said a lot of stupid things that would embarrass me now, things that are far off from the person who I am today. But there's no public record of my foolishness. My stupidity was kept within my small circle of friends, rarely spoken of by anyone else and certainly not seen by adult eyes.
So now I, and other parents like me, are faced with a dilemma: Do we intervene every time our kid posts something dumb/ignorant/offensive on Facebook or do we let it slide in hopes that they'll come to their senses on their own? I'm not really the 'let it slide' type but I have to say that I was a really sheltered child and even I didn't have someone looking over my shoulder correcting every stupid thing I said. (FYI: Jodi wrote about something similar that happened in her life last year and I've been thinking about her post a lot today.) Of course there is always the option of making him delete his FB account, but I don't think that's the best solution in the long term.
As for me, I suppose I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Maybe a bit more snooping and a few more conversations about the face you present to the world via the internet. But until the teen years are over, if you find yourself on my son's FB page and something offends you, let me apologize in advance.