I remember when I was a teen. I remember how terrified I was when I had to pick up the phone and call a boy for the the first time, wondering what I might say to his mom if she answered and what I would say to him without sounding like a moron. I remember waiting by the phone, praying it would ring, trying to guess where the boy I liked was, what he was doing and why he wasn’t calling me when he said he would. I recall taking actual photos, with a camera, waiting for them to be developed and pinning the ones I liked on my locker.
Things were different back then, in some ways better, in some ways worse. Now teenagers have second by second access to each other’s location and mood. It used to break my heart when a boy I liked never called me back, but it would have broken even harder if I was able to see that actually, he was out with his friends having a grand old time and clearly not interested enough to even send a simple text. So which is worse: the wondering, the waiting or the knowing for sure?
Once my daughter started middle school, I allowed her to get a Facebook account. At first she was on it all the time. Since Facebook is used by adults and kids alike, she has now figured out that the Facebook community is a nice place to catch up with all of her extended family and friends, but hardly a place she wants to invest a lot of time. Let’s face it – Facebook is a little vanilla, isn’t it? If I can read the incredibly long and detailed status of my great aunt, there’s not a whole lot of trouble to get into on there.
The advantages as a parent are that I can see what she’s doing, what her friends are posting, WHO her friends are and the kind of things she is saying to others. However, I believe that most teens understand that Facebook is a place where their parents and even grandparents are aware of their activity, and most are smart enough to act accordingly. I like that you can block people and make things as public or private as you want. Would I say that Facebook is harmless? No, I would never say that any online community where teens gather is harmless. It always has the potential to go nuclear. However, for the most part, Facebook is fairly tame.