10 Tips for Parents of Teens on Facebook

It’s hard to put the word teenager together with the phrase social networking or Facebook and not get just the teensiest bit anxious. A lot of horror stories circle around out there. Any parent is likely to be a bit worried.

However, it’s unreasonable to think you can keep your teen away from Facebook, much less the Internet. That’s where their friends are and that’s where they want to be.

Talk to them about general Internet safety for Facebook usage

Here are some general Internet safety tips that apply no matter what kind of website you’re using:

  • Don’t share any personal identifying info with anyone you don’t know.

  • Create different passwords for all the sites you use. Passwords should also be difficult to guess and contain a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols.

  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone, even boyfriends/girlfriends or best friends.

  • Click only those links you trust; be wary of scammy-sounding advertisements. They are usually scams.

Beware of strangers on Facebook

On Facebook, in general, people are who they say they are and tend to have only one account that links to their real e-mail address and contains only real information about them. Unfortunately, like the real world, Facebook isn’t completely free of malicious people who lie to take advantage of someone else.

The good news is that you can keep your experience free of people like this by accepting only Friend Requests from people you actually know in real life. Talk to your teen about the importance of sharing information only with people they actually know, and telling you when someone they don’t know contacts them.

Teach them how to report abuse on Facebook

Virtually every piece of content on Facebook has a Report link. If you or your child comes across content that is abusive or offensive, report it by clicking any of the Report links located near these pieces of content. Facebook investigates all abuse reports and removes content that violates its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You can report Timelines for being fake or posts for being harassing.

Teach them how to block people on Facebook

If someone is bothering your teen and won’t leave your teen alone, don’t hesitate to block the person from the Privacy Shortcuts menu.

To block someone, follow these steps:

  1. Hover over the left sidebar to expand it.

    Depending on the width of your browser, it may already be expanded.

  2. Click the lock icon next to your name at the top of the menu to open the Privacy Shortcuts menu.

  3. In the Privacy Shortcuts menu, click the How Do I Stop Someone from Bothering Me section.

  4. Type a name or e-mail address in the Add Name or Email text box.

  5. Click Block.

    The person is then added to your blocklist.

Learn to use Facebook’s privacy settings

Teens in the United States on Facebook have very specific privacy rules that are different from most users. Their Public posts are not distributed to everyone via search or otherwise. Instead, the largest group of people who can see something a minor shares “publicly” is friends of his friends.

That being said, you can rest easier if you go through your teen’s Privacy settings with her and agree on settings that allow her to share more safely. In general, sharing only with friends or creating a list of close friends can quickly ensure that fewer people are seeing your child’s information.

Talk about Facebook posts and consequences

Even with good Privacy settings, teenagers often struggle with the idea that once something is shared, it’s hard to undo. This is extremely true of things like Facebook photos or posts. Encourage your teens to think about how something might be seen and interpreted by people who aren’t their closest friends.

Would they want a college admissions officer to see that photo? Would they want their boss to read that post? Both of these situations have happened with real consequences.

Remember the golden rule for Facebook, too

As much as many parents worry about their kids being the victims of cyber-bullying, you have to also consider that kids can be the perpetrators of cyber-bullying.

The Golden Rule applies to your child just as much in adolescence as when she was in kindergarten: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Would you want someone saying something bad about you online? Part of being part of Facebook is being a good citizen.

Respect their boundaries on Facebook

After you get them set up on Facebook and talk about all the general ideas for Internet and Facebook safety, you need to give them some space.

You can talk to them about some of the things you see on Facebook, but commenting on their stuff and posting on their Timeline are things that are likely to get you unfriended. As long as you let them know they can come tell you whenever they’re having problems, it’s important to let them know that you trust them to make smart choices.

Don’t send friend requests to their friends on Facebook

If their friends friend you, it’s probably okay to accept those requests. However, it’s generally considered weird and pushy for you to reach out to their friends.

Make space for your own social life, and your family life, on Facebook

There’s a lot Facebook can offer you and your friends, with or without your children present. Share photos. Coordinate events with your friends. Post statuses about what’s going on with you.

One way to keep your social life separate from your teen’s social life, but still have a little interaction on Facebook, is to create a group for your family. You can add lots of different family members, and everyone can share the sort of stuff family members like to know. It creates a space where it’s okay for you and your son or daughter to interact on Facebook.

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