Facebook etiquette tips for parents: Be the lifeguard

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Photo: ndanger(Vlickr)

CyberParenting Topics on TheFish103.9FM Tuesday mornings.


The cyber technology is incredibly seductive and encourages folks to “let it all hang out”. The impulsive nature of a point and click environment (i.e., who is going to stop me?), needs to be countered by the reality there is no privacy on-line and there are real-world consequences for inappropriate conduct.

So the role of the parent on Facebook is that of a guardian, much like a lifeguard, who enforces the rules that ultimately save lives. And like the lifeguard, a parent is not expected to be the only one who knows how to swim. Below are some tips for parents to enforce cyber-safe rules without “over parenting”, giving their child encouragement and support as they gain independence to swim on their own in the net:


  • No privacy on social media. Insist on transparency from the outset. Your child needs to understand they have no privacy in the net, so there is no security in keeping things from you. You must have your child’s password, with the expectation  you will do fandom checks.  While it is recommended to be a “friend” in your child’s network, you don’t need to make it mandatory; (what is mandatory is you have access to their account with the password to do random checks).


  • Stay in their corner. Keep your Facebook presence in lurk only mode (observe, but do not interfere or insert yourself). If you discover something problematic, pull your child aside off-line to have a private conversation about their conduct or a situation.  The main objective is to keep your child thinking in terms of aligning their actions and words with their core values.

Placer County Sheriff Detective Jim Hudson was involved in shutting down the Facebook party promoter (Zachary Fischer),  a 19-year-old Roseville resident who was using Facebook to promote underage drinking parties. Fischer’s arrest was related to a July 16th party in Granite Bay, California, wherein over 300 youth were in attendance. When the Deputies arrived, the teens were throwing bottles at them. And one youth was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. According to Hudson the things kids were posting and doing on Facebook here incredibly disrespectful and there was clearly no worry about consequences for their actions. “Parents choose to not get involved,” Hudson said, “When parents choose not to get involved, kids will wind up in handcuffs.”

  • Integrity. Kids need parents to be, well…parents (not friends). So maintain the integrity of your role and your relationship with your child by not behaving like one of the gang on-line. Your role in their network environment is to reinforce that your child’s communications and interactions reflect the values of your home, and provide guidance when they need it.


  • No recruiting. If you are on Facebook, do not seek out the friends of your children to be “friends” on Facebook. If your child’s friends do “friend request” you, then you can accept but stay in lurk mode only. You are the parent and it is important to maintain that respectful presence in the social environment of your child.

If your child or one of their friends “de-friends” you, then do not be offended or challenge them. The main thing is that for your child, you have access to their account and make random checks for the quality of the communications and experience.

  • Walk the talk. If you are on Facebook, assume your children can see what you post as well. So be discreet and model the behavior you want to see in your child on-line. Example: photos can contain geo-tags which give away locations – be intentional about what you post and what you share.  Do not talk about issues with your teenagers on line.


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.