Facebook & Your Teens: Friend or Foe? by Perspective Parenting
Remember when you got your boobs growing up? Or maybe you remember when you weren’t getting them and everyone else seemed to be. (And um, yes, I’m assuming I’m speaking to the female population.)
It was such a big deal when “the girls” started making their way out into the world. Do you remember the attention they were given, the new outfits that showed their existence or tried to accentuate their form? They were given a whole new addition to our wardrobe in the form of bras and our friends either envied them or felt sorry for them. The beauty of budding adolescence….
But our developing bodies and the sex talks and the tight clothes to show our changing bodies- they were everywhere! The attention to our new selves was both gratifying and horrifying- depending on what that attention was.
Fast forward to our current generation of youth. Same budding adolescence, same preoccupation with their bodies and tight clothes and looking thin. Same paranoia and curiosity, different year. Today’s teenage girls have the same concerns we did at their age, yet many of us feel that the times and pressures are different. The biggest difference is not their body image or when their development is making its arrival into their lives, but the way our children have grown up expressing themselves. Not in clothing or hairstyle, but the way they communicate with each other.
Back when we started obsessing over our bodies, we used to talk to our friends through notes. Remember passing notes? And talking on the phone—for hours….Today, kids text each other on their cell phones and iPods to communicate. (And according to the teens I work with, there are even rules for this method of communication, but that’s a story for another day.) Back in our day, if we wanted to show someone what another person was wearing or doing, we would tell our friends in detail on the phone or we would draw pictures in our notes. Sadly, it didn’t seem to enhance our artistic skills, but we got the point. Today’s teens and preteens take pictures instead with their cell phones and iPods and text them to their friends or post them on Facebook or Twitter, to share with the rest of their 724 friends or followers, including the 3 they wanted to see them. Some may call that enhanced communication and others may consider it not communicative at all. But the reality is, that this is the culture our kids are growing up in and this is how they are learning to communicate. This method of communicating, that may seem backwards and impersonal…or way too personal to many of us, is what they know.
So when your teenage babysitter “friends” you on Facebook and suddenly you see some posts of her in her string bikini and her written posts seem a bit racey and borderline inappropriate, don’t panic. She is still the same responsible girl who you trust to watch your kids, but she is simply following the social norms of her peer group by posting what is interesting and news worthy for the day. Although, we as adults see and acknowledge that this kind of communication can be damaging both long and short term, teenagers developmentally view the world that is two feet in front of them. They don’t see down the road the way they do. They don’t feel the potential impact or consequence until it smacks them right in the face. And when we are lecturing them on the dangers of posting personal information and pictures that don’t go away on the internet, they are half listening and wondering if every one of their friends who are doing the same thing have to listen to these lectures from their parents as well.
So if everybody is in the same boat, should we just let it go and hope for the best? Yeah, that’s a big, fat – No. Although its important to acknowledge that the way they are expressing themselves is developmentally on par and culturally acceptable for their peer group, it is still dangerous and has some potential for long and short term damage, including college admissions looking at personal information on your FB or Twitter page, future employers, and the fact that some posted or texted photos may be deemed lewd enough to be considered Sexting which is illegal for minors in the United States and creating and sharing these photos can be viewed as distribution of child pornography. (http://im.about.com/od/sexting/United_States_Sexting_Laws.htm) Nobody wants that on their resume.
Facebook actually has written the perfect guidelines for everybody listed on their Facebook Safety page which can be found here. (http://www.facebook.com/safety/) It’s a must read if your kids are using Facebook and even if you are. But the key is with this topic, as with most topics when it comes to our kids, is to keep the lines of communication open. And in this respect, I mean talking..face to face. Although, some people do communicate better through the written word- do whatever it takes to get your kids to listen and to talk.
And although we may not understand the way they think- or don’t think- the more we will naturally critique and judge their decisions and the more they will feel judged by us and pull away. So when it comes to the sharing of themselves, in ways we can no longer relate to, remember, we’ve all been there. It’s just a matter of keeping things real and in check- both the way the new assets are shared and the way the way we communicate.
About Lynn: She is a mother of 2 young children and a professional school counselor to adolescents. She shares her perspectives regularly on everyday parenting concerns based on professional counseling experience fused with personal parenting experiences, using a blend of humor and reality. You can follow Lynn on Facebook and Twitter
This post was written by Lynn of Perspective Parenting exclusively for Bonbon Break Media, LLC.