Should Parents Follow Their Child’s Friends on Social Media?Frederick J. Goodall
While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I noticed that one of my tween daughter’s friends had “Liked” several of my photos. A couple of days later, a few more of her friends “Liked” more of my photos. I didn’t think much of it until they also sent me friend requests on Facebook. That’s when I started to feel a little uncomfortable about my daughter’s friends following my social media accounts.
Because my work relies heavily on social media, my accounts are open and I’m generous with follow backs. I never post anything on social media that would cause me or my family any embarrassment and I’m not worried that my daughter’s friends will see any inappropriate material. However, as a 43 year old man, following 12-13 year old girls on social media seems a bit weird.
It’s not that I don’t have any followers who are minors. Several of my teenage nieces and nephews follow my social media accounts. The middle school boys that I mentor at my church also follow me. What makes me uncomfortable about the situation with my daughter’s friends is that these girls are a part of my daughter’s world and not necessarily a part of mine.
Although I’ve picked up the girls from school and let them have sleepovers at my house, I like to keep my relationship with them separate from my online life. I don’t want any type of connection to the girls that would make things awkward for my daughter. Not that it isn’t already awkward.
My daughter has asked her friends to stop following me, but they ignore her. They like having this peek into her private life. I have to carefully consider every post because I know the girls are watching. Periodically, they like to tease my daughter by flaunting the fact that they follow her dad and have access to my Tweets and photos. Right now, the teasing is all good-natured, but what happens when it’s not? What happens if their friendship ends and the girls write nasty and mean-sprited comments? Do I block her friends? Do I comment on their timelines? I do tell their parents? The risk of things spiraling out of control is quite high if I’m not careful.
Things are exacerbated because my daughter has no social media accounts. She’s only 12 and many of the services require users to be at least 13 years old. Even if she did have her own accounts, I don’t think that I’d be comfortable with my daughter’s friending or following her friend’s dads on social media. While I’d love to believe that everyone is an honorable, good person, I’d hate to discover someone’s dark side at my daughter’s expense.
For the time being, I’ve decided endure her friend’s stalking. I don’t follow them back, but I do keep tabs on their activity. After all, I am a dad and I want to make sure the girls remain safe online.