When it comes to friending on Facebook, I have realized that most teens will send friend requests and accept them from anyone who they have mutual friends with (ie: classmates) even if they really do not know the person. Because of this, be aware that your young teen may end up being Facebook friends with older siblings of friends, college students, etc. and you may need to watch the content on their news feed for age-appropriateness.
If you come across a friend using language or posting things that are objectionable, your teen does have the option to just “un-friend” the person. Note that although the other person won’t get a notification that they were deleted, if they truly are friends with your teen, “un-friending” someone in teen world is like saying “I’m not your friend.” One way that we have handled this tricky area is to just “hide” their posts by “unsubscribing.” You do this by hovering over the upper right corner of one of their posts until the arrow appears. Click it to reveal the drop-down menu. You then can select if you want to see some of their posts, all of them, none of their status updates, or just click “unsubscribe.” When you unsubscribe, nothing they post will appear on your newsfeed anymore, but you are still Facebook friends. Please note that because you are still friends, your teen can still go to that persons page and see everything they have posted, and that person will still be seeing your posts like normal.
As parents, I do think we need to watch out for one another and our kids, but do it in a helpful, not harmful way. If you see another teen posting something harmful or inappropriate online, don’t be afraid to let the parents know. Many times parents are just not aware of what is going on or do not check. If my child posted something harmful, I would want to know!
This goes into a whole other area we will address later about being Facebook friends with your teen and your teens close friends. We’ll address that in another post. But for now, just let me say that if you see something dangerous, contact the parent quickly but in private. Facebook walls are for the most part public and NOT the place to question or confront every post that you are concerned about. (This goes for everyone! It’s not Biblical to confront someone like that Matt. 18:15) If you see something that is questionable or could be something inappropriate but your aren’t sure, save yourself some embarrassment from over-reacting. Keep in mind that you might not know the whole context and should probably give the person the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions and publicly admonishing them. Be diligent and wise, but don’t be intrusive and become the Facebook police. It’s best to just have an agreement with a few close friends to watch out for one another as your teens learn Facebook, and unsubcribe to those you don’t really know and don’t find their posts appropriate.
ONE IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW: there is a setting so that no one can search your teen or send them a friend request without having a mutual friend first. This is SO IMPORTANT. There are “fake” pages out there that search out and send requests to (especially to teen boys) with a profile picture of a scantily-clad female, then say, “If you want to see more pictures of me, click this link” to either get them to a porn site, or for phishing. This can be avoided simply by getting your settings correct. This also protects you some from predators who might be trolling around on public pages, looking for young teens to “friend” and communicate with. I have a personal story on this issue – more on this tomorrow.
Have a great day!