Today’s tip: If you decide to let your teen get on Facebook, it is advisable to have a “probationary/training period” with some extra limits to ensure they know how to us it properly before you just “set them free” on the site.

When my kids first got a Facebook account, we had a training period where they weren’t allowed to be on Facebook without me right there, to help them navigate their way and so I could show them what is safe and appropriate to do on Facebook and what they must avoid. (My husband doesn’t “do” Facebook, so I had to do the training on this area – but get Dad involved if he is a Facebook user too!)

For example, I would sit next to them and show them that things in writing don’t always come across the way you want them to. To avoid misunderstandings, or hurt feelings, or misinterpretations, I had to teach them to think carefully about the words they choose and what they post, comment on, etc.. As we went through their Facebook page together, there were plenty of examples to use and we had some good discussions about how the things you post reflect who you are in a very public way.

Also, as they got more and more friends, and as a result had more posts to see on their newsfeeds, I had to teach them how to recognize the bad, spyware links, (more on that on my next post) and how to block or remove posts that they didn’t need to be getting, and who to “friend” and who to decline (more on that in a few days).

When they demonstrated good decision-making and trustworthiness and an ability to understand and use Facebook in a beneficial way, then they earned the privilege of getting on without me watching their every move, and the ability to post things, etc.. without asking me to check it first. (The good news is, they still run things by me if they aren’t sure!)

We have drilled into our kids’ heads that they are representing Christ and our family when they make decisions away from us. This includes posting things on Facebook. It is easy for them to forget how public things are and that anyone can be reading their conversations. So we remind them not to say anything that they couldn’t say to their grandparents or pastor or on a stage in front of all their classmates – or don’t post any picture that you wouldn’t want the world to see – period. Believe me, this takes time to learn. Facebook is just another piece to a bigger puzzle that you are creating with your kids in understanding how to handle themselves with dignity and respect in life away from your watchful eye. In this day of technology – you have two options. You can forbid it all, and risk having your teen using it without guidance, or you can get intentional, learn about it, and train them to use it correctly.

True character is being who you say you are even when no one is looking. If they are authentic, this shouldn’t be a problem, but with the pressure of “being cool” and fitting in, etc..some teens might find it easy to blur the lines, which is why it important to continue to monitor them now and then, and have honest discussions.

By the way, there is a “delete post” option…and with teens and their impulsivity, you might want to get them familiar with it, because you will probably want to use it a time or two! In addition, access to Facebook can be a great privilege and motivator, so removing the privilege for misuse can be a useful tool in your training “toolbag.”

Next post: Malicious/dangerous content on Facebook