I was thrilled when my dad joined Facebook last year and even went so far as to log on as him, load some pictures onto his profile, make friend requests and fill out his personal information. And of course, I became his friend.
However, had Facebook been around 20 years ago when I was in high school, I might not have been as eager to usher him into the inner sanctum of my profile page. Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that 35 percent of teens recently surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep say they’ve ignored their parents’ friend requests on Facebook.
Kaplan’s theory seems to be that while kids might not have a lot of control over their academic lives, they are determined to assert some power and independence over their lives when it comes to social networks, and that may mean ignoring their parents. The survey also found that 16 percent of teens who are friends with their parents are only friends because their parents required it if they wanted permission to be on the site.
Among the 35 percent of kids who aren’t friends with their parents on Facebook, 38 percent of them said they’ve ignored their parents’ friend requests, but 82 percent say that their parents are still either “very involved” (44 percent) or “somewhat involved” (38 percent) in their academic lives, according to MSNBC.com.
Kids 13 and over are considered “authorized account holders” on Facebook, so parents can only access their profiles if their kids allow them (of course parents can control what happens on computers in their home, and prohibit Facebook profiles or not – but obviously it’s easy enough these days to log on to a computer outside of the house, too).
Child safety advocates are in favor of parents knowing what their children are doing online, even if it means spying for safety’s sake. The United Kingdom’s Exploitation and Online Protection Center asked Facebook last spring to embed a panic button for kids to report “disturbing encounters.”
It’s hard for me to postulate how old children should be when they’re allowed to go on Facebook, because I think so much has to do with the maturity of the individual kid. But in the case of my kids, depending on the age that they start showing an interest in social network sites, I could see myself requiring that they “friend” me until they at least hit an age or a milestone in which I think they’re responsible enough not be supervised. And then if they choose to ignore me, well, then I’ll probably just have to accept that I’ve finally become a member of a club much larger than Facebook itself.
At what age would you let your children set up a Facebook profile, and would you require them to be friends with you on it?