In the Parenthood

Do your teens keep tabs on you?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  March 5, 2010 02:37 PM

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I'm friends with my parents on Facebook. And my brother. Also my godmother, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and several long-lost cousins. And my husband, of course. And, until recently, our oldest kids.

They're teenagers now, but when our oldest girls first wanted to get on Facebook, we agreed as long as they agreed to "friend" all of their parents (us, their mom, and their stepdad). We were concerned about cyberbullying, inappropriate behavior, and privacy issues, and, frankly, we wanted to keep tabs on them. So we set up accounts of our own, and pretty soon the parents were logging on more often than the kids, reconnecting with old friends from high school and chatting via status updates and comments way after midnight.

I didn't think much of it until I vented in a status update while watching the results of the Globe union contract vote roll in last July and the first worried response came from our oldest daughter. That's when realized: While I was trying to keep tabs on our kids, they could keep tabs on us just as easily.

And I'm not sure that's appropriate.

While I want to know what our big kids are up to, I don't think they necessarily need to be able to monitor my interactions with my own friends. The obvious solution: Stop using Facebook. Which I wasn't keen on doing.

Though Facebook was initially available only to college students -- users even had to have a college e-mail address -- in September 2007 it began to allow age 13 or older to have an account. This led to a huge jump in the number of users over the age of 25; marketing research company Conscore reported an increase of 279 percent in that group. (It also let to a quiet internet riot among young users: the Facebook group "For the love of God -- don't let parents join Facebook" was established in July 2007 with 67 members -- now it has 8,198.)

For busy or isolated parents, Facebook is simple way to have a virtual social life and maintain a support network. I'd rather socialize off line but, as I've mentioned before, in real life the place where free time and affordable childcare intersect is increasingly hard to find, and if your friends and family are far-flung, catching up can be even more difficult.

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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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