Vintage Parenting 101: Your Kids And MySpace/Facebook
As a part of my efforts to increase the accessibility of my website, I am re-posting articles from my old Parenting 101 page as stand-alone blog posts on the main site. And as I look through this one, I am blown away at how this arena has skyrocketed forward in the years since I wrote this piece!
June 25, 2007 – “Your Kids and MySpace/Facebook”
Q – Why do you think MySpace, Facebook, and other online communities are so hugely popular among adolescents?
A – We live in a culture of a great connection paradox. We have all manner of technological gadgetry to allow us to connect with one another. And yet, on a deeper, more meaningful level, we seem more disconnected than ever. We bare our deepest souls with the entire worldwide web on our blogs, yet don’t know the people who live next door to us. And this paradox may well be hitting adolescents the hardest. They want so desperately to be seen and heard and noticed by someone who cares that they are there. Enter the image, music, video, and interactivity – driven world of MySpace (etc). Our young people now have access to a stage and microphone of worldwide proportion, offering them a tremendous feeling of significance. One of the ways to help prevent them from getting into trouble on MySpace is to actively offer them a healthy sense of significance at home.
Q – So, what is MySpace?
A – MySpace and Facebook are online communities in which individuals can register for a free personal web page that they can completely personalize. Pictures, music, videos (music and YouTube), wallpaper, email, chatting – it’s all there. It’s like a virtual bedroom for adolescents where they can express themselves and share it with whomever they like. These online communities offer the option of a “private” setting, limiting access of the individual’s page to only those given an invitation by the individual. Many kids have huge friend lists, only a handful of whom the child actually knows in real life.
Language tends to get very “edgy” on MySpace, with a high volume of obscenity and profanity – much of which gets expressed through an evolving shorthand language made popular through text messaging. There is also a lot of sexual exploration and expression, with communities forming around common sexual orientations and practices. Also, watch out for “cyberbullying,” a growing epidemic of adolescents using mass communication technology to pick on one another – often in ways that are very damaging.
Online communities such as these can be fun opportunities for self-expression and personal connection for our kids. However, it is ESSENTIAL that we, as parents, stay involved in their lives, educating and empowering them to make wise and moral choices that will serve them well wherever they find themselves.
From what I understand, Facebook is rapidly gaining ground on MySpace, and is becoming more popular with students. However, last I heard (and I’m sure this is already outdated), MySpace is the 4th most active site on the entire worldwide web, as measured by hits per day. That’s a higher ranking than Google!!!
Q – How can I learn more about MySpace?
A – I highly recommend several great resources:
www.mediafamily.org There are many wonderful resources and insights available through this website “MediaWise.” Take your time and look around. Be sure to sign up for the virtual tour of MySpace!
MySpace has a page for parents, offering some great tips and resources. Take advantage of these insider insights!
www.youthroots.com is an alternative to MySpace or Facebook that is designed to work with communities and families of faith. This up and coming social network site is definitely worth looking into!
Click here for a very thorough online dictionary of text message/email/online shorthand lingo. Given how thorough this one is, I’m guessing they keep it up to date. You won’t believe how many there are! You also may be shocked at many of the abbreviations – pretty crude stuff.
“Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World” by Chap Clark (just released on July 1). This author previously published a book entitled “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers.” I cannot recommend this one highly enough! I have not yet read “Disconnected” (it only came out two days ago), but I am very eager to do so – given the author’s credibility and the subject matter.
In addition, ask your adolescent or child to give you a MySpace/Facebook tour. You may be surprised. They might just be eager to show you around! Of course, they may also roll their eyes, mutter some obscenity under their breath, and tell you to get lost. In this case, enlist another young person to give you the guided tour. Just don’t ask your child’s close friend – loyalty is an extremely important quality of adolescent friendships today, and they may think you are asking them to betray your child.
Q – What guidelines should I, as a parent, follow regarding my child on MySpace?
A – Start by signing up for an account for yourself with whichever online community your child is using. You don’t really need to do much of anything with your account, just have one that is active. Then, INSIST your child invite you as a friend on their site. My adolescent clients frequently get mad at me for this one, but I recommend parents do not allow their child to use MySpace/Facebook without offering parents access to their page. Parents, beware of “dummy pages.” This is a very common practice among teens to keep their parents from seeing what they are really doing online. If their page rarely changes appearance, there’s a good chance it isn’t their real page. Also, if they put you off for a day or two before allowing you access, they may be setting up a dummy page for you.
OK, parents, listen up – this is important. If you are going to insist on having access to the space which they consider so sacred and private (from the adult world, anyway), you MUST be respectful of them and their space. You are the parent with the authority – too many parents are too willing to give up this right. However, if you are constantly “hanging out” in their space, or frequently criticizing them about minor issues on their page, you will alienate yourself from them and lose your ability to influence them. If you can take a position of respectful curiosity regarding their online world, you will be amazed how much they may begin to share with you (over time), and how powerfully you can influence their lives for good.