In the beginning, there was a ‘college student-only’ style Facebook where one would have to attend an approved college or university in order to sign up for an account. In recent years, Facebook has expanded on its membership opportunities, first by allowing high school children to join, then later allowing everyone with a valid email address to partake in the online social networking site. Since then, parents have utilized Facebook as a means to keep up with their offspring’s social life by attempting to ‘friend’ them and have access to their Facebook profile. Most teens find this invasive, and some even find it distasteful. It is embarrassing to the child to find out that their mother or father is on Facebook, primarily because of maturity issues.
Besides, teens feel that adults have other options when it comes to social networking. Many teens worry that when their parents do join Facebook, they convey a little too much or even embarrassing information via their profile page or constant status updates. Even in the presence of all this evidence stacked against adults on reasons why they shouldn’t join Facebook, there are, in fact, legitimate arguments that support the use of Facebook by adults. Facebook is a place where young people come to freely mingle and network and parents can join also, but they should respect their child’s space because it’s the one of the only places in a child’s life where it isn’t regulated by parental control.
If one were to search blogs and threads related to Facebook and parents, the number one reason, by far, that teens don’t want their parents to have a Facebook simply is because they would be embarrassed. Since Facebook was started by students, and primarily used by such, the notion that one’s mother, father, or pretty much anyone over the age of 30 uses or has a Facebook signifies to the teen a sense of immaturity. In the New York Times article “OMG My Mom Just Joined Facebook!!” the author’s daughter shows her frustration to her mother who has recently joined Facebook in an instant message to her mother. “Wayyy creepy,” said the instant message. “Why did you make one!” The daughter then sent, “im only telling you for your own good”, followed immediately by, “You won’t get away with this,” and “everyone in the whole world thinks its super creepy when adults have facebooks.” Since teens view their parents as the epitome of what it means to be successful, independent, and wise, for them to join a site like Facebook puts them in an uncomfortable state of mind and putting their previous judgments about their perceived very mature parents into question. Parents also tend to “over-share” information when they join Facebook, updating their status multiple times a day with their every move. On the website MyParentsJoinedFacebook.com, there are numerous examples of parents over-sharing their daily lives in status updates and wall posts made on their offspring’s wall, which many children find very embarrassing. Also, parents tend to act like grammar police and will literally make a public spectacle of your bad vocabulary skills. Teens shun away at the very thought of their mother or father joining Facebook, simply because of the embarrassment they might endure from their parents ignorance of the social networking site.
Adults have a plethora of other sites they can join where the environment is a lot more mature and professional. Some adults even refuse to join any type of social networking site, simply because of the stereotype that it’s made only for young people. “Social networking has gotten a bad rap, and I think that’s wrong,” says Jim Klein, director of information services and technology at Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita Valley, CA. “It offers lots of options and opportunities that school districts should be taking advantage of.” (O’Hanlon) Adults have come up with an interesting way to use social networking for engaging children in learning. Teachers have come together and created social sites where children of that school can come together and discuss homework and other school related issues. “Sometimes it’s hard to convince teachers to use technology as a mechanism for learning,” says Kirsten Jordan, online community partnerships coordinator for TakingITGlobal, an online community that features an education-themed social networking site called TIGed. Jordan says that just showing educators how they can use social networking for educational purposes can be productive. “Once you do that, they can see.” (O’Hanlon) In a New York Times article, one professor pointed out other sites that adults can join and be around their own kind. “He pointed out that there are a number of other social networks — sober, grown-up places like Linkedin.com (for making business contacts) and Care2.com (for social activists) and Webbiographies.com (for amateur genealogists) — where I could cavort without offending my daughter.” (Slatalla) There are sites out there tailored to fit any type of situation; Adults just need to explore their options.
The argument against Facebook for parents (usually the children’s’ argument) is that it was a children’s device, originally starting out for college students, and that parents going on Facebook would be like parents in 1969 going to Woodstock. However, using that logic, one could argue that parents should be prevented from getting cell phones, checking their emails, or having mp3 players. Ipods used to be the cool thing that the rich children had at school, now you see sixty-year-old men jogging in Scarsdale with them. Clearly, somewhere along the line, Ipods stopped being “just for children”. Then there’s the argument for parents on Facebook (usually the argument of the parents). They say that Facebook is just another form of technology, or rather that children should not be interfering with their lives, an “I’m the parent, you’re the child” type of philosophy. Parents need to keep a healthy distance from their children, and exposing their lives to the public is irresponsible and immature. When one has children, one gains many privileges but one also has responsibilities–posting bikini-clad photos of you and your husband kissing is probably one of the things you lose.
There has been a bit of backlash since Facebook opened its doors to everyone. Groups have started popping up on showing resentment towards the very unpopular move. In the abc news article “Friended By Mom and Dad on Facebook”, the author shows that students don’t like the inclusion of nonstudents and parents on Facebook. “It’s really weird that nonstudents and parents use Facebook,” said Emma Gaines, a Tufts University sophomore. “It makes me feel really uncomfortable that my older aunt has Facebook, because she says that she likes to check up on her teenage nieces and nephews and takes our pictures for her own use. That’s creepy.” (Friended By Mom and Dad on Facebook, Alexa Davis). When Facebook opened its doors to all users, that boosted its visits up 300 percent, and that increase includes parents, ad companies, and anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address. Even before nonstudents were able to use the site, there were many petitions by students sent to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg to prevent nonstudents from joining the site. “For instance, the creator of the Facebook group “Don’t Let My Parents onto Facebook!!” sent an e-mail to Zuckerberg before the change to general admission, detailing the reasons why parents shouldn’t be allowed on the site.
The description for the group says, “Facebook is planning to announce that it will soon make the site open to anyone with a valid e-mail address. This means that your mom and dad, grandmas, almost everyone could possibly see your profiles. Now I am sure the privacy settings will go through the roof when this happens, but that is not the point. Facebook is a site where high school and college kids can be on their own and not worry about their parents or anyone else judging them. Let’s keep it that way.” (Davis)
So what’s the verdict? Can parents have Facebooks, or is it too soon? Is Facebook inherently for children and never to be enjoyed by parents? Parents can have Facebooks. Much like any other technology or social networking site, Facebook is filtering out into the mainstream. It started out for college children, then went to high school children, then middle schoolers pretending to be high school children, then it opened up to pedophiles and random older people, and now parents are joining. Keep in mind people also have Facebooks for their dogs, cats, and babies. Parents may not be the problem at all. However, parents should treat Facebook the way an adult would treat it. Constantly writing embarrassing things on their children’ wall (when the kid has explicitly said not to), or posting anything inappropriate or immature, is just dumb. Giving every detail of their romantic life, or acting like a teenager in any way, is disturbing and shouldn’t be happening. But some parents come across some really cool stuff on Facebook–they can meet up with a lot of their old college friends and have a reliable way to communicate with them. One wouldn’t say that’s so bad.