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Friday, March 27, 2015

How To Monitor Your Teen On Facebook

I've noticed that teens on Facebook are a wild bunch. I was appalled by the profanities, inappropriate photos and rudeness when teens connect on Facebook. Teens do not hesitate in kicking each other out of conversations or blocking and unblocking their friends on a whim. Some of them type in capital letters all the time as if they are shouting or scolding when talking.  In other words, teens can be really cruel online and they do not behave or chat the way adults do online. I believe this is from lack of supervision.

I told my daughter to imagine herself in a room with all her friends. "Imagine all of you are shouting at the same time and you open the door and kick classmates out on a whim and someone else opens the door and lets them back in and this goes on over and over again while everyone is swearing and using obscene language at the same time." She had a good laugh imagining that. "That doesn't happen in real life", I told her "... and what does not take place in real life should not take place on social media. Period."

I am quite surprised at how these teens are connecting all day and night without monitoring. I can see some of them spending a lot of hours online late into the night. What are their parents doing? I wonder. Responsible online behaviour MUST be taught. Restrictions SHOULD be placed on the number of hours your teen uses Facebook.

I am saddened to see the LACK OF EDUCATION being provided to some of these teens. Some of them post up very personal information and pictures of themselves including phone numbers and addresses and where they are going. More and more young girls are having their identity and self image shaped by the number of likes they receive for their pictures. The positive or negative comments they get drive them to take more and more selfies of themselves for their FB friends some of which number by the thousands.

I can see how the teens social scene on FB can easily get out of hand with cyber bullying making some teens very unhappy and depressed. The conditions are prime for it. There is lack of monitoring of teens on Facebook by parents.

Here are a few actual examples of what I've seen on some teen's Facebook activity. Names have been changed to protect their identity.

Example 1:

Lydia has been on Facebook since she was in lower primary school. Obviously someone lied about her age to set up the account, either herself of her parents who allowed her. One day Lydia lost her mobile phone and all her contacts on it. She asks for her friends contact numbers by posting a message on her Facebook timeline. In no time at all, the comments were filled with private telephone numbers of her friends on Facebook which directly linked to their Facebook profiles with photos and many other private information in them including which school they are from.

Example 2:

Samantha was not allowed to open a Facebook account by her parents till she reached the minimum age requirement of 13. As soon as she reached her 13th birthday, she opened a Facebook account, quickly put up her favourite picture as her profile picture. Within days she had over 50 friends, had started a few group conversations and was spamming the group conversations with photos and images. 

Example 3

Chee Meng was allowed to open a Facebook account by his parents when he started Form 1 because almost all of his classmates had one by then. They use it daily (even though they meet each other daily in class). Like Samantha, he joined several group conversations and started spamming the group with inappropriate photos that had  been freely shared by other teens in the group. His mother found out and very quickly put a stop to that. 

Kids on social media for the first time get influenced very easily. A whole new world is open to them for the first time and this can be very exciting and also dangerous if not curbed or controlled. They face peer pressure to conform to their other peers who think that speaking in a certain manner and sharing inappropriate images are a cool thing.

  1. Do not allow your teen to set up a Facebook profile before the minimum age requirement. They may start to pester you starting from age 7 when they enter primary school because many of their classmates have one but do not allow it. The minimum age restriction is there for a reason.
  2. Help your teen set up his or her account when the time is right.
  3. Teach your teen to set his account to the highest level of privacy 
  4. Educate your teen about online safety (Do not give out password to anyone and do not post private information online)
  5. Inform your teen that anything they post online is never really private and cannot be erased even when 'deleted' so teach them to think before they post. Even a private message to a friend can be disseminated to others very quickly. All it takes is a screenshot and copy and paste. 
  6. Monitor your teen who is using FB for the first time closely. You can relax the monitoring once you are confident that your teen can  use social media wisely taking into account all the things you have taught
  7. Do not allow your teen to post inappropriate photos they may regret later on.
  8. Guide your teen to become a responsible online citizen by discussing appropriate online behaviour or netiquette.
  9. Tell your teen to come to you if she is being bullied online. 
  10. Set rules for your teen on Facebook use. The number of hours, no posting while doing homework as it is very distracting etc. Have restrictions and stick to it.
These rules also apply to mobile phone use and instant messaging like Whatsapp etc.

If you are not sure what to say to your teen about online safety, then try to print out some teacher resources on this subject. One good place is http://www.reallifeonline.ca/ It has role play videos for different grades and pdf resources you can print for you and your teen to read and discuss. Its tagline is "Educating Kids To Be Safe And Healthy In An Ever-Changing Online World By Applying Real Life Behaviour To Life Online." You may find the articles useful especially if you are not very active online yourself.

Some private and international schools have included this module in their lesson plans. I think it is a good move and it should be part of a school's lesson plans and curriculum.


Forget about invasion of privacy and your teens right for privacy etc FOR NOW. I believe this is important and even necessary for parents to help their teen become a responsible online citizen. You teen need your guidance and you can only guide if you know what is going on. 

How you do this is up to you. You may insist that your teen befriends you on Facebook. What I have done is help my teen set up a Facebook account. I informed her that I shall need to have her password and I will be reading her posts from time to time until such time when I am confident that I do not need to do that anymore. I do not encourage her to post photographs of herself especially those wearing school uniform with the badge clearly visible. She may however post and share things she likes including her artwork, crafts or songs she likes.

I do not insist on becoming her friend on Facebook. I told her that we should talk face to face. We are after all living in the same house. Face to face chatting is so much better compared to wishing each other and writing on each other's Facebook wall for all to see. However, we do send each other private messages from time to time just for fun.

I find that checking my teen's FB messages has further opened up the door of communication between us. We can talk freely about what her friends are posting and doing and discuss them openly. If she has a problem I instantly know about it and she can come to me about it more easily. 

That's how I got to see how teens behave online, the foul language, the reckless kicking and blocking going on, and the number of hours spent on social media. I see and I can advise and guide with that knowledge.

So far, I am happy with my teen's behaviour online. She chooses her friends carefully and is quite careful in what she posts. She also does not engage in rude behaviour. I am proud of her.


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