Relating in the network: What makes a “friend” a friend?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Photo: stephendepolo (Flickr)

The Fish103.9FM (Tuesdays) CyberParenting topic this week:

October is “bully prevention month” – so we are going to start off with a conversation about “Friending” versus friendship – help your child be more discerning about the difference between a connection and a meaningful relationship.

Why is it important to take time to discuss with children what it means to be a friend or declare someone your friend?

Social media network contacts are superficial at best – and deceitful and dangerous at worst.  The real relationships are not simply connections. Below are some ways in which there can be confusion.

Friend versus stranger or acquaintance – kids can believe that if someone is in the social network, then they must be trustworthy. Kids wind up sharing too much personal information, which makes them vulnerable to the nefarious and malicious actors in the network – including peers who may be tempted to bully.  Kids are believing things that are not true and lowering personal standards, including for modesty, and sharing nude or sexually explicit photos which can be used against them.

Digital natives need to understand that people who expect you to do something that makes you uncomfortable are not friends. Friends respect you and do not manipulate you for their own agenda. Plain and simple.

Parent-child relationship defined as “friend” in the network. Social media is horizontal, or flat, in that it connotes a peer-to-peer connection.  For parents especially, it is important to convey your parental authority in a way that supports your child with appropriate conduct and boundary setting.

Photo: JOID(Flickr)

Bully problem. So much attention is paid to this social phenomenon that has escalated in our homes, schools, workplaces and political discourse. It is the result of  network culture and a global economic transformation that inspires insecurity and the spirit of fear.

For more about promoting cyber-secure citizenship go to: A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Citizenship

Provide more clarity to children about genuine friendship so there is not confusion.

Managing relationships on and off-line has fast become a critical life skill. Help your child with a check list of friendship and bully behavior that will resonate for them.

Friend defined: “one attached to another by affection or esteem; not hostile; a favored companion; belonging to the same group or nation.”

Bullying happens when abuse is confused with power, and excuse confused with forgive.


Abusive. Bullies abuse their power (physical, social, circumstantial).

Whereas friends do not abuse power – there is equal regard for one another in a friendship. When you confide in a friend, there is power exchange as you trust that person with the information because they have high personal regard for you and vice versa. So a friend will not seek to take advantage of your perceived weaknesses to get an upper hand when it serves her, and because he knows you, he will not jump to the worst conclusion about you when you have offended him.

Unforgiving.The victim mentality makes genuine friendship difficult.

As parents, we experience opportunities to be victorious or defeated with our children every day.

Every bully will tell you why their target deserves it. There is no forgiving offenses which justifies cruel harassment or physical abuse as an attempt to get even or dispense justice; and there is a calculation that their target has less power and can easily be oppressed and intimidated.  This could involve leveraging a situation that puts you at a disadvantage (no mercy), or simply the target has less social gravitas.

  • A friend is not hostile and can be trusted to be a supporter.
  • A friend does not gossip, and will not entertain gossip about you.
  • Your true friends will speak to you directly about things concerning you personally and them. There always an opportunity to be dealing in truth with friends because there is no other agenda to manipulate you or others for another outcome (like getting even with someone or causing alliances or break ups).
  • There is trustworthy character inherent in a friendship. There is a certain amount of integrity that makes a person reliable in most circumstances.

For more about integrity, go to A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Citizenship



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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( 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.