Monday, October 17, 2011

Vigilant parenting and potentially creepy social network connections

The duties of parenthood continue to evolve. When I was a brand new parent, 27 years ago, I never dreamed that I'd become obliged to monitor my children's Facebook postings. Good grief, 27 years ago I'm not even sure that Al Gore had finished inventing the Internet.

But this is how things developed: I started out monitoring my older kids' statuses on AIM when they were in college (I learned all sorts of things from paying attention and, I like to think, I saved them some embarrassment by advising them to take down or revise certain posts). When Facebook came along -- and after I finally persuaded the kids to "friend" me -- I began monitoring these posts instead. Today, AIM is consigned to the dustbin of technological history, but the habits of vigilance learned with that comparatively primitive technology have served me well.

I don't worry too much, these days, about what the older kids post. I wouldn't put up as many details of my life as Older Daughter does of hers... and I wish her husband wouldn't put up strident political posts every few days... especially because I so seldom agree with him.

But the ones I really watch carefully are the younger kids, the two still in college. I don't want either of them to put something up that will cost them a job some day or get them into trouble at school. And I surely don't want to see anything that I'll have to tell their mother about.

Youngest Son chafes at the level of supervision I provide. What really galls him, I suppose, is that I'll leave comments that let him -- and his friends -- know that I'm watching.

Lately, I've been watching a lot of pictures that have been posted in which Youngest Son has been "tagged" with this pretty girl or that one or, more frequently, with two or three at a time.

I see these photos and I walk thereafter with just a little extra spring in my step. He's a chip off the old block, I lie to myself. (I'm very gullible that way.)

But then, the other day, I noted that my sister Betty had become 'friends' with one of the young blondes who has appeared frequently with my son in Facebook pictures.

Cue scary music here.

My real-life friend Steve says it is important to maintain a proper degree of separation between the generations on Facebook. Thus, I am Facebook friends with Steve, but not with Steve's son.

My rule of thumb has been, generally, that I will accept invitations from my kids' friends, but I will not request that any of my kids' friends become my Facebook friends. I varied from this only once: After Oldest Son got married, I did ask his wife, Abby, to 'friend' me. I thought, at that point, it was probably appropriate.

I got a little nervous when Younger Daughter's boyfriend, Olaf, asked to 'friend' me -- but they've been going out so long now I didn't think it would be a problem. (I checked with Younger Daughter immediately after. She approved.)

But, now, there was Betty friending this blonde. I'll call her Maureen because that is not her real name.

Yes, call me paranoid, but Youngest Son just started his freshman year of college. He's just met Maureen. And she's starting to infiltrate the family? Is this a Fatal Attraction scenario in the making?

I decided, reluctantly, not to panic. Panic is my ordinary default response to a wide variety of situations and circumstances... but, I thought, Youngest Son is coming home soon for Fall Break. I'll ask him privately. If the answers don't make sense, I'll call Betty and talk to her. (OK, I probably would have begun by screaming what in the blue blazes is the matter with you? Have you lost your mind? But, if Betty didn't hang up on me in those first moments, I probably would have begun talking. Eventually.)

Youngest Son came home Saturday. I asked him about this right away.

There actually is a valid reason for Maureen to 'friend' Betty. Maureen's mother and Betty are long-time friends in real life. I did not know that.

So that issue turned out to be happily resolved, and without family drama or police intervention. But a father's work is never done.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

sometimes i think my grandchildren forget i am their "friend" but i stay quiet in the background and just get informed!

smiles, bee

katherine. said...

Like you, I have accepted (rarely requested) being friends with the kids' friends on Facebook. But with three kids all over 21, a lot of their friends are mine online.

I am frequently texting my 21 year old boy, and telling him to untag himself in a photo someone else posted.

They never forget I'm on Facebook. On occasion they warn me about something I may see.

Good Dad you for keeping that watch. Having said that, I am VERY happy that my parents didn't have this type of insight into my college life!!!!!!!