To "friend" or not to "friend"? Every parent's decision is their own, but take a look at our suggestions.

To some parents, social media may seem like a completely foreign concept. Posting pictures and status updates to let your 1,500 “friends” know what you’re up to, where you’re at, and who you’re with may seem nuts, but for today’s kids, it’s part of everyday life. 

This up and coming generation has come of age with computers from the beginning and for most, their social media presence is just as important as (and greatly influences) their social scene in school.

Who their Facebook friends are and how many people liked their new profile photo is just as important to them as it was for us to sit at a certain table in the cafeteria. 

For lots of kids, what's said online and the reactions to it from their peers, has a strong effect on their life offline.

What’s Posted on the Internet, Stays on the Internet

It doesn’t matter how locked down and private your child’s Facebook or Instagram account may be, it’s still possible for every photo or status to be saved and posted elsewhere by a “friend”. 

By following your child on their social media platforms, they'll be less inclined to post something questionable that can come back to haunt them. 

While some people may think parents and social media just don’t mix, here are 5 reasons why they do:

1. Cyberbullying

Knowing Mom and Dad are watching is a great way to deter kids from engaging in cyberbullying, or from being the brunt of it. Kids are much less likely to say something mean or hurtful to another child if they know their parents may see. 

Even the best kids can get caught up in a bullying situation whether it’s from peer pressure or a want to fit in. By being friends with your child on Facebook, you are giving them an easy out in this type of situation. Instead of being pressured to comment on something or engage in bullying, they can simply say “I can’t because my Mom/Dad is on Facebook.” 

It’s an easy way to stop bullying before it even begins.

2. Online Strangers

Tweens and teens are going through serious hormonal changes and dealing with sudden attraction, dating, and interest all while juggling social media. “Liking” a post or commenting on a photo can be a form of online flirting and while parents don’t want to get too involved in their children’s social media, it’s important to pay attention in these situations and notice if something seems inappropriate. 

Social media has opened up a platform for online predators to reach out to kids, make connections, and form “friendships” that can lead to dangerous situations down the road. Until our kids are prepared to handle a difficult and potentially dangerous situation, it’s important for parents to keep an eye out for predatory actions on social media accounts.

3. Inappropriate Photos

The chances that a child or teen is going to post an inappropriate or sexually explicit photo on their Facebook page when a parent can see it, is pretty slim. The security of a Facebook photo or post is only as strong as the “friends” your child has online, so if a former friend, disgruntled ex, or jealous student gets ahold of an inappropriate photo, it could go viral in a matter of minutes. 

It’s better to avoid this situation all together and simply following your kids on Facebook could help them make a smart decision when it comes to which photos to post or are better left offline.

4. Who’s Looking

Given the fact that most teen Facebook pages are private (or should be), if parents don't have access to them, it’s impossible to know who does. As parents, we constantly walk the line of allowing our kids to grow up and form their independence while also keeping them safe. When it comes to parenting and social media, it's best to err on the side of caution. 

If your child has 1,000+ Facebook friends, it might be worth the time to take a look and help them make good decisions about who is safe to be friends with and who may not be. Social media can be a gray area for some less tech-savvy parents, but it’s not only a great way to help keep your kids safe, it’s also a way to connect with them on their level. 

You don’t want your child to feel like you are policing them by being their Facebook friend, but instead that you are partaking in what they like to do. Be on alert for suspicious friends and grooming behavior or cyberbullying, but don’t forget that Facebook is also a way to get to know your child’s friends and peer group to strengthen your bond.

For help managing your child's screen time use, try Zift!

About Carli Leavitt

Carli Leavitt is a public relations specialist and avid blogger who is passionate about the safety of children in the digital age. Follow her on Twitter @CarliLeavitt

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