News Column

Parents Use Facebook to Keep Tabs on Kids

April 23, 2013

Is Mom or Dad creeping on your Facebook? There's half a chance.

A new study by Education Database Online (www.OnlineEducation.net) says one out of two parents say part of the reason they set up a Facebook account was to keep tabs on their kids.

"I think it is fine for parents to check on their child's Facebook page," said mental health therapist Diana Barkman, with Kessler Psychological Services in Hartville, Ohio. "Furthermore, parents should have all passwords and be aware of privacy settings. In this regard your child needs to know that you are still paying the bills and are responsible for protecting them. They may grouse, but if they want to have a Facebook page, and they do, they'll relent."

Amanda Krebs of Green, Ohio, has four youngsters, three who are far too young for a Facebook page and a 14-year-old son, Korey. And, yes, she has his password, which she has kept secret from him. If he wants to get on Facebook, Mom has to sign him in.

"I know it and can see his activity as well as that of his friends. I am on Facebook for my own personal reasons, not to spy. Most kids are smart enough to block their Facebook activity from people they don't want to see it. So the only way to really know what they are doing is to have personal access," she said.

Of course her son created another profile that he didn't think his parents knew about. But, Barkman said, parents have to be smarter than the kids.

"I made a post on his page that he was busted for creating a profile that he thought his parents weren't aware of. Trust me, he won't try that again, and if he does we will find out," she added.

The mom said while her way of parenting may seem a little harsh, she's learned that being upfront with Korey about monitoring his online activities has created a stronger bond between mom, dad and son.

"He trusts us because we are honest with him and expect him to do the same with us."

Still, that doesn't mean he's happy about not having his Facebook password.

"I hate it because I feel like she is almost overprotective, or I'm a little kid and she has to monitor me," said Korey, an eighth-grader at Green Middle School. "My friends think it's ridiculous too."

The password punishment came after a friend living in another state hacked his Facebook page and posted some inappropriate pictures.

"Now she won't give it to me," he lamented.

Who's behind that profile?

Children (like many adults) often exaggerate to make themselves look cool to their friends. So when something they post seems out of character, Barkman said it's a good opportunity to chat.

"This is an opportunity for parents to bring up pertinent topics and to advise their child regarding the dangers of pretending to be something they're not. Whatever you do as a parent, don't go ballistic," Barkman said. Instead, "remain calm when you discuss even shocking behavior or verbiage. As soon as a parent begins to escalate, the young person will shut down _ and they'll view you as someone they don't want to approach with personal issues."

Though parents don't always write on their children's Facebook pages, that doesn't mean they aren't paying attention to what's happening.

According to the study, more than 40 percent look at their kid's Facebook page every day. More than 30 percent check it out four or more times a week. But what are they most interested in learning?

A child's status updates.

So if a teen mentions he plans to down a few beers that night, it's likely to send most parents into orbit. Or if a daughter mentions she's out of birth control pills and really needs them before a weekend party, watch out. Momma's claws may appear.

Certainly parents have a right to monitor their kids, especially if they are still living at home. But what if your child is a young adult?

"At 19 (for instance) there are many different scenarios regarding where that young person is at in their life. Do they live at home and use your computer? Are you paying for the Internet service? If so, you have a say in what activity is being generated," Barkman said.

"The idea is to allow the young person to gradually have more control in their lives. Parents who obsessively check their young person's page present a personal problem of over-involvement and worry. Anything done to an extreme becomes a negative."



Source: (c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Distributed by MCT Information Services