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How to Be Friends with Your Teen on Facebook: Tips to Avoid “Unfriending”

Today we welcome a guest blog post from Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!”. Vanessa manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 119 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten's work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, Real Housewives of Orange County and much more!  She won the Moms Choice Award in 2009 and her work is read by over 300,000 adults.



The day my mom said she was even thinking about joining Facebook I went on profile lockdown. I immediately began cleaning up photos, defriending loose cannon friends from college, blocking certain sections of my profile, reading through old comments…just in case. How can parents be friends with their kids on Facebook without annoying the heck out of their kids—or worse, getting defriended?

See my Facebook tips for parents below:

1) Leverage the Benefits

Being friends with your kids on social networks actually has some great advantages. You can use news feeds to keep each other updated. Use photo albums to share pictures. How hard is it when your mom wants you to email pictures of your birthday dinner?  It always takes forever to load, she cannot figure out how to get them off the email to print them (ok maybe this is getting too personal—I love you mom!) But seriously, social network photo albums are a really easy way to share photos and comment on each other’s pictures. You can also plan events like reunions or birthdays.

2) Set Boundaries Early

Before you do something your teen does not like, sit down with them and ask them what they are and are not comfortable with. You can use the following checklist to start:

__Posting on walls

__Commenting on feed

__Liking things on the feed

__ Sending private messages

__Commenting on photos

__Friending their friends

3) Don’t Snoop, Casually Peruse

If photos are public on Facebook then technically it is not snooping for you to look through your child’s pictures. BUT, there is a difference between scrutinizing and merely looking. My friends mom called her one day and said that she had seen a boy in the background of one of her pictures who looked like he was holding a white substance. Was this cocaine? She wanted to know. This is a surefire way to get defriended by your teen.

4) Use it to Document

In this day and age it is so easy to lose track of your family history, traditions and relationships.  Facebook can document this all for you.  Each family member can post notes or blogs about their childhood, memories and family traditions—trust me, your grandkids will thank you later! Family is so important, stay connected, keep your relationships and have fun doing it! I never want social networks to replace family relationships, but I think they can enhance them.  Use Facebook to document, not to pester.

Most importantly, think about how you would have wanted to be friends with YOUR parents on Facebook. If something you are doing would have made you uncomfortable—stop before it’s too late!

Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 119 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth.

SafetyWeb wants to know: Are you friends with your child on Facebook, or have you been 'unfriended'? Take our Facebook Parents Poll to cast your vote and see how others responded. Did you know that a recent survey noted 86 percent of parents are friends with their child on Facebook?

For more Social Networking Tips for Parents, visit our Parental control guides.



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1 Responses »

  1. Such great advice. My friend and his wife got defriended by their son and found out some embarrassing information through a friend of a friend of a friend. It pays to stay in good graces!

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Welcome to the SafetyWeb blog. We set this up so that our employees and guest bloggers would have a forum to discuss pertinent and emerging topics related to online safety. We will cover topics such as Online Friends and Online Reputation Management. Our goal is to empower parents and protect kids and teens. To that end, we will often point you to any of our own internal reference articles, as well as external resources that we find useful. If you have any suggestions for topics you would like us to address, please send us an email. In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy this blog, our free resources, and the SafetyWeb product. Here's to online safety!

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