Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Should We Friend Our Children?

When I was a girl, as soon as I got home from school I would phone the friend I just left at the bus stop 5 minutes ago. What news could I have possibly have generated in 5 minutes? I can't imagine, but I know it took a good half an hour to get off my chest, with the constant burble of my mum saying "Hang up now dear" in the background. Young teenagers just need this opportunity to communicate at length, to us Golden Oldies it may seem like senseless drivel but hey!

Parents of older children will know that the BT landline has largely been replaced today by Facebook, with endless opportunities for exchanging nonsense, jokes, gossip and sometimes nastiness - night and day.

This has led me and my friends to debate the interesting moral question - should we friend our children? By being Facebook friends, you get to see exactly what they're saying. Most of my friends believe that, in the argot of youth, this would just be weird (when did weirdness get such a bad reputation?) and would make you a "stalker".

I used to think that too, though I did continue to be weird and stalkery on the quiet. But now I've changed my mind. I no longer think that we can use Facebook as a private place. Not just your parents, but the whole of the world will be able to peep at you and make conclusions that could affect your career, your friends, your safety and your happiness. Sure, only people who you've added can see your private stuff. Let's remember though, if you have less than 300 "friends" then you are a billy-no-mates. When my kids swear, are being bullied, share photos that are much too grown-up and are mean to others, I want to know. There are other more private channels for that sort of thing.

My own Facebook contacts include my parents and my children and I too have had to learn to tone it down. The challenge is to be funny and interesting without being rude. It's hard, especially when you're young and 300 friends are ready to tear you down and suggest that you are uncool. But it's a great skill for life, and there are many many fine examples of people that have mastered it posting on the walls on me and my family.

So.. Facebook.. let's keep it sweet.

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