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Big Brother or Caring Mother?

August 6, 2007

In my experiments in social networking, I have noticed that a lot of kids from my little town are on Facebook and Myspace.  For instance, I found the Facebook page for a high school girl who interned in my daughter’s elementary school class this past year, so I added her as a friend.  Then I got to thinking….is it creepy for a 30+ woman to have a high schooler as a “friend”?  I’ve talked to her some, seen her in the park, so I’m not a stranger.  But if I were her parent, would I want other moms in the ‘hood adding her as a friend?  As I delve into these sites more, I’m finding these same kids are involved in various groups and cliques online that relate to their class at school or their social group – one in particular that got me talking is populated by the lifeguards at my swim club.  All I can say about that is if anyone on the board of directors knew what they were saying about the club and the patrons, they would probably fire the lot of them.  I know through a neighbor that several school board members have established Facebook accounts, but they haven’t figured out a true purpose for it – are they spying, or are they going in to get involved and be a presense on these sites. 

 I’m wondering…

* What is appropriate for adults do to in terms of interacting with kids you know on social networking sites?  Does my friend want me as a friend of her high schooler, or would that be creepy?

*Could you or rather should you join groups that kids who interact with your kids interact on?  Should I be in the class of ’08 group?  Do I need to know that the senior class is planning a “cut 7th period day” in October?

* If you find something that is objectionable, do you tell about it?  Should I tell someone from my pool club what the lifeguards really think about their manager?  Is it on a basis of harm done/no harm done that one should act?  I think if I saw a kid who looked like they were in danger, or about to lash out at another, I would tell someone, but for more innocent stuff, do I bother?

Used correctly, these sites could help a parent stay involved in a kid’s life.  Used incorrectly, you could have the opposite effect, and drive kids away and cause them to go into hiding, or worse.   What is the proper netiquette in these situations?  Where is Emily Post when you really need her?

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