A few weeks ago, I sat down with teenage techie Jordan Drake,19, who broadcasts a podcast on technology, as well as a live call-in radio show and website, called Digital Life Radio. Since Jordan scored his first job (and a Macbook Pro) from Rush Limbaugh when was 16, he’s been working professionally helping people make technology work for them.
Because Jordan is a computer genius, and a teen, I asked him about the protocol for parents who want to connect with their children on the popular social networking site Facebook. “Facebook can be a great way to show your kids that you want to connect on their level, but it can also be a sure fire way to embarrass them if you’re not careful,” Jordan says.
First, a parent who’s not familiar with Facebook must expand his/her vocabulary with a few Facebook terms.
Friend: (n) a person with which you have connected and have mutual access to public information. (v) to request to become “friends” with someone. (ex: “I’ll friend you on Facebook”) Past tense: Friended. I’m not lying, people actually say this!
Wall: (n) the front page of a Facebook Profile, where friends (see above) can post notes, links, photos and videos.
Status: (n) the statement at the top of your profile page where you post what you are doing at the moment! You can also integrate your status update with Twitter, but that would require a whole new menagerie of vocabulary words!
Facebook: (n) The actual Facebook website. (v) To send a message, write on one’s wall, or otherwise connect on Facebook. (ex: “I don’t have time to talk right now, just Facebook me later”)
Here are Jordan’s suggestions for what and what not to do:
- Be honest with them about what you are trying to do. Let them know that you are trying to communicate with them, not “spy” on them or encroach on their space.
- Talk to them beforehand, and ask their opinion. You don’t want to be shocked when your child refuses your friend request!
- Approach your kids’ friends only if you know them personally, and would feel comfortable doing so in real life. Would you strike up a conversation at the mall or church? Go ahead and “friend” them, but don’t be too disappointed of they don’t respond.
- Do anything sneaky in order to gain access to your child’s Facebook Profile, always be honest and open.
- Approach your kids’ friends whom you do not know in person, or wouldn’t strike up a conversation with in public
- Fill up your child’s profile page with comments from you. Keep in mind that they still need to have space and protect their “cool cred.”
- Post embarrassing photos or stories about them without permission. The 2 year old bath tub picture? Probably not a good facebook photo! Now once they are married with kids of their own, post away… the more embarrassing, the better!
Jordan is a homeschooler, and noted that the parent/teen Facebook interaction may be different in different family situations. Homeschoolers seem to be more likely to socialize as families, and therefore be more comfortable interacting with their friends’ parents. The bottom line is to communicate with your teen; find out how he/she feels about you being on Facebook, and what boundaries and guidelines you want to set for your online connection. And most of all, express that you love and respect your teen, and you want to use technology as a way to deepen your relationship. I bet you’d be surprised how fun it’ll be!
How do you use technology to connect with your teen?