Let’s say you’ve been the perfect digital parent for your teen. You’ve done your research online, and have had a first class blueprint for safe online behavior since you gave her that first email address. When it comes to Facebook, you’re proud to have accomplished the following:
- She didn’t get a Facebook account until she turned 13
- Her account has been set to “private” since she signed up
- You have been her Facebook “friend” since day one
- She does not post personally identifying information
- She does not post too many personal photos, and of course, nothing too revealing
- She doesn’t “check in”, or do anything else to reveal her exact location
- She only posts things that make her look like a fine, upstanding young lady
Congratulations on a job well done. You’ve done all the right things. Except for maybe one thing.
Have you looked at how many friends she has? If it’s a big number, there may be some things about what she is doing online that require your attention.
By a big number, we mean any number that is much greater than the number of real world friends she has. According to Pew Internet Research, most teen Facebook users have too many Facebook friends – 300 on average, and 20% have more than 600. That’s a problem, or could be.
Why? Let’s say your daughter is a Facebook Friend Collector, and fits into the 600+ category. Since there is no way she knows 600 people in real life, you might want to ask her why. If she and her friends are treating their online life as if it’s a popularity contest, that’s not too healthy. Life doesn’t work that way. Popularity is a common goal for teens, but until now, hasn’t really been measurable. Now it can become a game, and an area of too much focus, aided by social networks. It’s important that your teen interact with her friends positively on Facebook and in person. Keep an eye on your teen’s friend list. There may be no issue, especially without any other red flags, but it is possible she may be doing other riskier things online to gain popularity. Just be aware.
Remember your teen’s “friends” have access to her. If your daughter’s account is private, all of those friends have access to her posts, and a network of 600 people is absolutely not private. In addition, even if you are Facebook friends with her, you don’t know what she is sending/receiving via private message. Those people who are her friends can message her privately, and you’ll never see it.
The bottom line is that if your daughter is cyberbullied or some creep tries to contact her via Facebook, it probably won’t be one of her close friends.
Facebook would like to think that they have changed the definition of “friend”, but they haven’t. The closer your teen’s friend group online resembles her friends and family in real life, the safer she will be.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.