Monday, May 2, 2011

Facebook and My Son

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.


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Ah Tam as always a great post that is thought provoking. I know it seems like a non ending battle but he's hearing you. Unless he's doing it at 21 :-)

What is sad is these kids do this at 21+ and have horrendous photo's of themselves and Mr/Ms. HR will look on the net after receiving their resume. I know this because of Rick's former job. He did this. So he sees Miss Thing with her boobs out in what she thinks is a harmless picture while drunk with friends and is funny, he sees it as someone who is irresponsible and not right for the job.
It's amazing what you'll find without being a "friend"

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

As I was reading what you wrote, I had flashbacks to that incident of my children spewing nastiness. You gave me shudders all over again. I wish that I could give you hope and say that your son's words were a one-time blip, but I'm still seeing a lot of crap out there from my own kids -- even though I basically preach about it on a daily basis.

I was really having anxiety attacks over college admissions and just what colleges can see. My daughter has actually de-friended me because she doesn't want me to see what she and her friends are up to. And then there's Skype and Skype-messaging -- which I don't do. It could really be a full-time job policing these kids. And no matter how smart or street-wise they think they are, they still do bone-headed things.

My only consolation is that at 19 years of age now, I'm seeing a change in what my oldest is posting out there. He wants to be a teacher (and maybe an administrator) someday. He's really cleaned up his facebook act. So -- maybe there is hope.

Keep a pulse on things and good luck. You're seriously going to need it to survive the teenage years. I've basically been reduced to an anxiety-laden basketcase who knows squat about life.

Tammie said...

peggy: i think about ricks job in hr a lot when it comes to this issue. hopefully my son will wisen up before his first 'real' job.

jodi: your oldest really does give me hope that all this near constant policing will pay off. but yes, it's exhausting and stressful.

Shalet said...

Well when it comes to Facebook I am a schoolmarm. My son, apparently, has gone through life not knowing how to spell. Nor does he appear to know how to use spell check. When I read his posts I cringe.

And, like you, I often call him out offline. But last night, after all the fuss, I corrected his spelling online. It was simply killing me.

His postings were okay -- simply a regurgitation of our political beliefs. He was a bit more ebullient than I. He's young enough to think you get the bad guy and the world is then a better place. I'll let him continue to live in that world until he learns otherwise.


lvankuiken said...

We have the same ground rules that you do. I do regularly inspect their page and I am friends with a lot of my kid's facebook friends as well. (as a side note, I NEVER send out the requests) My two teens (14 and 16) didn't care for this much in the beginning, but I think that now they actually like that I check up on them. It gives them an out...they tell their friends that their parents check their page and not to use foul language, etc.

I think the best thing you can do is just keep monitoring things and talking to him. Kids do stupid things. They just do. But the only way they will learn that they are stupid is by parents intervening.

I am amazed (and appalled) by some of the things I see other kids writing on their facebook walls - references to drinking and drugs, etc. and I always wonder if their parents check their facebook. Don't they see what their kids are doing?

Great post!

Tammie said...

shalet: ha. yeah my boys spelling on Fb leaves something to be desired as well.

ivankuikan: oh gosh if i ever come across drinking and drug talk things will get ugly real quick.

Daphne said...

I'm not a parent so I can't really comment on a lot of this, but what I can say is that it is DEFINITELY good to be checking up on your kids. Kids need that sense that someone is looking out for them (even if they protest and "hate" it). It's a safety net that they need. So I say: yes, keep policing, and speak up when something isn't okay. It's your job, to guide him until he's old enough, and he'll thank you for it later even if he never says so.

Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

i had something profound to say here, but then i had to pop-over to the suggested post about healthy macaroni salad and now i have completely lost my thought.

i had a short conversation at the bus stop today with a lady about her having three boys and being so glad she doesn't have girls because girls are "harder as teenagers". i have a girl (possibly two?) and also my own fears about the teen years for my boy(s) and girl(s)...

the internet is one place i know kids seem to show their immaturity and ignorance. i have a teen niece who has an abundance of boy-friends who seem to have sex on the brain.

i think you seem to have the right idea. hope i can make good choices when mine are older.

ps- nice macaroni salad. :)

Dysfunctional Mom said...

I have kept this post unread all day so I could come back and share some wisdom with you. The problem is, I don't have any. There's just no set answer, I don't think. I am friends with all of my kids on FB and I always will be; if they delete me, they won't have an account any more (except of course for the 18 year old). It's my way of keeping track. I too am friends with many of my kids' friends, and every single one of them requested me. I think it keeps all of them on slightly better behavior. Kids, and I think boys especially, just do not understand consequences. They never seem to think anything will happen to them.
My only advice is to try to strike a balance between critiquing everything he posts and letting him post whatever crap he feels like posting.

just me said...

my son can't have a FB unless we are friends either, agree with ivankuiken helps them think a little more. My son was 5 when 9/11 happened, we didn't let him watch any of it on the news so we explained last night more about why this happened and why such a big deal about osama. I went logged onto his account after he went to bed and was amazed, appalled, and shocked at the stupid things some of these kids were saying. I just hope the teachers today took it as a chance to help educate those that don't get it at home.
I also read my son's freinds profiles, helps me decide who he will be allowed to go hang out with at the mall, go to games with, etc. I am amazed at the kids that brag about being high, trying to figure out how to build a bong, who they had sex with, etc. Maybe it's being 43 but our kids are definetly growing up in a faster world then I did.

craftytammie said...

i know my kids are too young for me to worry about this yet, although my 6 year old daughter has a classmate with his own account!?! crazy.

but age aside - so many kids & adults flaunt their drama all over FB and it drives me crazy. and it's not just HR looking at your profile - insurance companies are doing it now too.

i'm "friends" on FB with Father J from my husband's church - let me tell you, you really think twice about what you post when someone like that is reading!! :)

mandy said...

i wish i had some i'm still in the 'spoons are for eating not for hitting' phase with my kids, alas, i only have sympathy...and i'm REALLY glad fb didn't exists when I was your son's age!

Dani said...

I dread the day The Boy (and The Girl for that matter) get to the Facebook age.

I'm hoping it will be "out" by then and some other devil will rear its ugly head.

Plus, since I'm Ms. Blog & Facebook, The Boy thinks it's lame. Let's hope that continues.

I wish I had advice. I'm just trying to get The Boy to use deodorant and brush his teeth well.

kraftykash said...

I call it creeping. I love to do it. I also *try* to keep a close eye on my kids online.
On the other hand, I was talking to another Mom last night and realized that it isn't just my kid that does the things that I don't like. Its what kids do. They are weird, and who I am to stop the weirdness? Unless of course its inappropriate, then I go balls to the wall and smack him around. LOL

Idealistic girl said...

Hi Tammie! stumbled on your blog and that post was on point! i'm sure if there were a lot more parents who would do the same thing, a lot of nonsense wouldn't have taken place. Great post!

The Schneiders said...

Hi Tammie, I came over from Beauty that Moves. Love this post! I have 3 teenage boys (and 3 younger children) and they are on facebook. My husband and lots of friends are also on facebook. We have very similar ground rules as you do. I think it is a great opportunity to help my children navigate this technology world while they are still at home.

If my boys post something that is just silly, we let it go. But if it is not appropriate or slanderous or could harm them later we intervene.

Another rule we have is that if you wouldn't say something to someone's face, you can't say it via facebook or text.

Great post!

Run Lori Run said...

This is so timely! My daughter, age 11, had begged and begged and PLEADED with me to let her have a Facebook account. All her friends are on. This is until she recently *borrowed* a friend's password, logged on and, like Jodi's son, said some crazy, dumb stuff. Then she admitted maybe she wasn't ready for a Facebook acct. I completely and totally agree with your concerns. At some point I'm going to give in, its just a matter of when.

Maria Rose said...

Oh man! I can't wait to get to that phase with my gal.

I am actually experiencing a FB reminder of my own stupid self in the form of FB friends who don't know me at all as an adult and leave comments like, " Remember that time when you were 15 and you (fill in the blank with something terrible and stupid)?"