Should My Teen Be My Facebook Friend?

The Pew Research Center recently issued a new poll entitled Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Networks.  According to their research, four out of five parents have coached their teens about the safe use of the Internet and cell phone technology.  Six out of 10 teens say that they know their parents have checked their social media profiles, and 45 percent of parents have friended their child on a social network.

Friending Your Teen Allows You To Monitor Online Activity

Advantages:  Monitoring the material that your child posts on Facebook allows you to see the face that your child is presenting to the world.  Also, monitoring allows you to identify your child’s other Facebook friends.  You will know whom your child corresponds with, and you will know what those people are saying to your child.

Disadvantages:  Internet-savvy teens will know how to make their private information private.  Posts can be made visible only to specific Facebook friends, giving teens an easy way to block parents from more sensitive material.

Friending Your Teen Helps You To Counteract Cyber-Bullying

Advantages:  Friending your child helps you to see any incidents of cyber-bullying firsthand.  You will have the opportunity to communicate with your child about the experience.  You will also have the opportunity to intervene, if necessary.

Disadvantages:  You may overreact to a situation and place unnecessary restrictions on your teen’s communications. While your advocacy is important, your child also needs to learn to advocate for him or herself.  If you overreact to a small situation, your teen may be less likely to communicate to you when something truly hurtful happens.

Friending Your Teen Communicates Trust

Advantages:  When you invite your teen into your circle, you are communicating confidence in your teen’s ability to interact within your adult friends.  The banter you establish with your teen online may enhance your offline communication.  Your child will enjoy the trust that you demonstrate by communicating openly through social media.

Disadvantages:  When you friend your teen, your teen will see the things that you post.  While your teen needs to trust you and to have a friendly relationship with you, your teen also needs to view you as an authority figure. You may have better access to your child’s social media experience, but you will also lose your own freedom of expression.

The Bottom Line

The Pew Research Center report found that the parents who friended their children on Facebook were most likely to talk to their teens about online safety.  On the other hand, the survey found that these parents were much more likely to experience conflict with their teens about social media.  For this reason, consider less invasive steps, like periodically searching your child’s information on a search engine.  Also, consider checking the web pages that your children visit, or ensure that computers are kept in a central room of your home.   Your child wants to know that you care about online safety.  However, your child may not want to be your “friend.”

About Marion Witte

Marion Witte was born and raised on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. It was there that she acquired her Midwestern work ethic and her philosophy of helping others. Marion enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur, and upon selling her various business interests she began pursuing a life of philanthropy. She is passionate and outspoken about the need for radical changes in the way we view children and parenting. Her memoir “Little Madhouse on the Prairie” relays the story of her life, and it is the basis of her commitment to this work. She founded and manages the Angel Heart Foundation and its sister organizations “Next Generation Parenting” and “Brave New Leaders.”

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