Facebook: Friend or Foe?

“Like” it or not, this social network thing is here to stay. In fact, chances are that you are one of the 500 million people who troll the pages of Facebook on a regular basis. And your kids, neighbors, and co-workers are probably uploading their photos, poking someone or updating their status even as you read this.

For some people, this interaction with hundreds of friends enriches their life, helps them feel connected with loved ones and keeps them in touch with events from Libya to London.

Parents and spouses in my clinical practice complain that their child or partner spends “hours” on FB, and that this reduces communication between people who live under the same roof. Other folks have found ways to integrate this electronic presence in their life.

See this interesting study that shows that more than 60 percent of people surveyed are Facebook friends with their children or their parents. In other words, many of us are using FB to stay close to our family members.

Other suggestions that I discuss with parents are:

  • Wait until the child is at least 13 before allowing them to set up a FB account. Even then, discuss with your child whether s/he is ready for FB in terms of their maturity.
  • Discuss FB safety and security policies and issues using this FAQ
  • Insist that the child accept your friend request and (unobtrusively) keep an eye on their posts and pictures
  • Make sure that you and your minor child have a clear understanding about the privacy settings for their account
  • Ensure that the child knows that they can come to you if they are being bullied on cyberspace or feel unsafe in any way