Social networking can be a blunt weapon for an outraged teen.
In the land of Facebook, with all its byways, highways and hidden crevices I’m still a novice explorer. I stumble over application obstacles and I’m still too bashful to poke someone. Like other ‘rents (er, that’s us parents) I joined to see just what was the like, you know, hectic magnetic attraction of this huge cyberclub for our children.
My finding: it’s weird, wonderful and, yes, for a parent, often worrying. But, for me, it’s a fun thing, a place where I can connect with those I seek and bat off those I choose to ignore. And that’s the thing: I don’t want to be friends with everyone who lurks in cyberspace, just because I can. (And, know this, if your teenager accepts you as a friend, expect to be placed immediately on the ‘limited access/profile’ list).
It’s probably the major difference between my more guarded generation and today’s teenager. The first time I fell upon Facebook it was alongside my 19-year-old nephew who was checking up on some traveling buddies. He had about 592 friends. Surely he was not old enough to have even met that many people in his life -- let alone be their friend!
However, as I teetered into the brave new world of online social networking I realised this was the norm. Anyone under 20 seems to have a minimum of 300…
But friends are not always friends – and Facebook can be a dangerous weapon. A schoolfriend of a friend of a friend recently betrayed her friend by sleeping with her boyfriend (well, not her’s but her friend’s…).
Fury hath no outlet like Facebook and the Scarlet Woman was outed very publicly. There were denials and accusations and much wailing and beating of breasts and profiles. It was the modern day equivalent of a public stoning except the volleys delivered were via cutting and pasting and the no-holds-barred, often too-public “Wall”.
Yes, the guilty parties should both have kept their pants on, but the deed had been done – and it was there for everyone to see. I asked one of the bemused voyeurs, after hearing about all the slings and arrows posted online, why these two had not simply been deleted off the ‘friends list’.
“Because,” said this wise young 17-year-old soul, “you want to keep an eye on your enemies.”
But friends do watch out for their friends too – and constructively rein them in. One 15-year-old, wavering between the safe and the dangerous, declared her status as: “Morals…who needs them?”. Her real friends moved in swiftly, ordering her to i)remove it and ii)have some self-respect.
So, as with any weapon, Facebook can be used to protect or attack. It all depends on how it is used as to the damage it can cause.
How do you feel about your children and Facebook? Have you checked it out for yourself? Let's talk about it in the box below.