When parents meddle on Facebook, the kids run for 'dislike' button
During a recent dinner, Daryl Smolens called her daughter Ali and asked her to tell the friend she was dining with “to have fun in Boston this weekend.”
“I turn to [him] and say, ‘I didn’t know you were going to Boston,’” recalled Ali. “My mom already knew because she had read it on Facebook, and here I am sitting next to him and I didn’t even know!”
The 25-year-old West Villager said it’s “100 percent” annoying when her mom knows more about what her friends are doing on Facebook than she does. And she’s not alone.
As Facebook’s popularity spikes among all generations, more parents are getting involved in their kids’ online lives — and it’s not always welcome.
“Without fail, every time I sign on [to Facebook], my mom already has commented on one of my friends’ status — even before I’ve had a chance to see it for the first time,” said Ali.
“I’ve known [Ali’s friends] forever,” said Daryl, 63, of the Upper East Side. “They are always at our house hanging out … not always with Ali around.
“I did tell Ali I would stop commenting [on her friends’ status], but, you know, I’m a mother.”
Wendy Sachs, editor in chief of Care.com, a parenting website, said: “Some kids definitely have a church/state feeling when it comes to Facebook, and they want to keep their parents out. But parents want to stay connected to their kids, and Facebook offers an often unedited look into what’s really going on in their lives.”
Many parents with younger children insist on having access to their Facebook page to ward off cyberbullying or other inappropriate activity. In an October Care.com survey, one in three parents of children 12 to 17 years old said they feared their kids being cyberbullied more than kidnapping, suicide, car accidents or terrorism.
“Cyberbullying has terrified parents, so monitoring is becoming increasingly important,” said Sachs, who has a 9-year-old son. But even she knows the drawbacks to giving parents permission to view your Facebook page.
“As a child of divorced parents, an innocuous post of a piece I wrote followed by a humorous comment by my dad led to a bitter comment from my mother,” Sachs said. “I ended up deleting the post and almost de-friending my mom on Facebook.”
Mark LoCastro knows that Facebook feuds can mushroom into larger family feuds. The 28-year-old Lower East Side resident wanted some privacy, so he limited access to his profile. But when his dad’s girlfriend discovered that she was blocked, things went south.
“The following day, she was real upset and contacted my dad,” he said.
After a conflict, LoCastro restored her access.
“I guess blocking someone important on Facebook, like a family member, is like blocking them out of your life,” he said. “People sometimes take Facebook too seriously.”
Facebook jabs cause real pain
It was once fair enough to say, “It’s just Facebook. Don’t take it so seriously.”
But those days are over, said Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona.
“The impact of Facebook … has significantly changed the landscape of social relationships for many people,” Cilona said. “In my experience, the overwhelming impact has been negative.”
Cilona said that in the past two or three years, “a week has rarely gone by that I have not heard at least several mentions about Facebook in my work.” He’s seen families ripped apart and lovers scorned by words or actions on Facebook.
“It’s clear that more and more people are taking Facebook very seriously,” he said. “It can certainly have serious real-world consequences."
Make rules to nip Facebook chaos in the bud
Kelli Krafsky and her husband, Jason — who dub themselves “The Social Media Couple” and co-authored the book “Facebook and Your Marriage” — have some rules for themselves and their two teenagers:
1. Watch what you say. No swearing, no threats and no innuendos. And watch who you talk about: Don’t complain about parents, put down siblings or air family spats.
2. Be responsible. Kids must be held accountable for anything posted from their own profile.
3. No secrets. Parents must be able to view all pictures, videos, posts, updates, tags … everything.
1. Don’t parent on Facebook. Any real-time issues, such as chores, homework or grades, should be dealt with face-to-face, not on Facebook.
2. Back off. There are websites devoted to embarrassing parental posts on Facebook. Don’t humiliate them.
3. Parents have the final say. If you say a friend needs to be blocked, a page “unliked” or a password changed, then so be it. Explain why.