Talking Back Stories

Everyone has a story to share about their concerns with Facebook and other social media sites. Read what others have to say below.

Facebook is Hostile to Marriage and Families -- Change This and Facebook will Succeed with Kids and Parents
Steve

Countless studies have shown that protecting families is one of the most important steps to protecting children. Facebook's very design -- individual accounts only, no family or even married couple accounts -- is structured in a way that at best strains the family unit, if not is outright hostile to it. If Facebook were to create married couple and family accounts, in which families could interact with others just as they do in the physical world, the debate would be very different.

For example, my wife and I closely manage who my kids play with after school and in which activities they participate. A family account with similar controls might be acceptable. Let us review who gets to talk to my kids when there is a virtual knock on the door, and what my kids say and do with others before they do it. Under this framework, I believe the debate could take a healthier turn to what are appropriate interactions for the whole family, just as those debates take place in the non-virtual world. My wife and I decided long ago that a site that encourages husbands and wives to get in touch with old girlfriends and boyfriends outside the view of your partner was just not worth the implications on perceptions of trust. (See numerous citations on the Internet to how many divorce cases are now citing Facebook as a catalyst.) Similar concerns, with even worse ramifications for kids, should lead to a new way of looking at online interactions and families. It starts with accounts designed for a husband and wife to interact as a couple, just like in the real world. Then the couple can interact with others relative to the couples' children.

Other social sites use family accounts, so no technical issue exists and Facebook has *decided* to elevate individuals above married couples and families. This, I believe, is the fundamental problem with Facebook and kids/families, and reveals its designers' issues with privacy and the commercial exploitation thereof. Change this and the debate may change in favor of Facebook.

Technology, facebook, and bullying

I heard part of an interview with Dr. Steyer on the "Think" program on KERA in Dallas / Fort Worth. The following are some thoughts in response to what I heard in that interview. My daughter is grown and on her own, so no longer needs me to set guidelines for her use of technology, but I've nonetheless given the issue of technology use by children a great deal of thought, and am sharing my thoughts about what I'd do, if I were responsible for a young person.

First, since I believe most values and behavior patterns are "caught", rather than taught, I expect I'd make certain that I was modeling for my child the behavior that I wanted my child to develop. In this instance, if I expected my child to limit use of technology, whether computer, or smart phone, or texting (gonna have a problem with that one; I don't text, and don't expect I ever will), then my child needs to see me limiting my own use of these items. My limits don't have to be the same as the limits for my child, but it's not reasonable to expect my child to learn to set reasonable limits on technology use if I show no signs of having any limits whatsoever.

In the interview, I think I heard a proposed limit on use of technology of a couple of hours a day. I expect that I'd be a bit more discriminating than to set a firm limit. Not all uses of technology are created equal. When the technology is an part and parcel of a shared activity with interpersonal interaction, like several members of a family watching a contest involving the favorite sports team, or watching programming with obvious educational content, such as one might find on the National Geographic, or History channels, or a classic motion picture, or use of technology in support of educational activities (using Wikipedia or Google books to find materials for a school paper) I would not count such activities against the time limit. Solo time with technology, with no or limited direct face to face interpersonal interaction would be limited to 30 minutes, or an hour a day. By the way, I strongly advocate that the technology should be kept in a public, common space.

In general, I support regulation and legislation intended to prevent bullying, not because of any expectations that these laws or regulations will stop bullies, but only because in US culture, regulations and legislation are the only method available to communicate the sense of our collective. I harbor no illusions, however that regulation or legislation are going to stop bullying. Since that's the case, it is incumbent upon parents to raise their children to understand how words and actions can hurt other people, so that they can refrain from engaging in those behaviors, on the one hand, and on the other, to raise their children with coping skills to enable them to deal with hurtful things other people may say or do, whether inadvertently or on purpose, in a manner that when a child is the target of such acts, the child knows other methods of coping with them, other than sinking into despair, and self destruction.

It's also important to teach children the importance of privacy and discretion from an early age. A child who is taught, and learns, that there are some things that one doesn't need to share with everyone, and who has learned how to exercise discretion on who can be trusted, and who needs to know, will have far fewer problems than someone who has not mastered these skills. In like manner, I believe that children can be taught to be comfortable with their personhood, and self image, so that the impulse to mimic celebrities may be reduced. I think one way to do this is for parents to be closely involved with their children and provide necessary guidance. A son looking at an advertisement for a particular brand of sports shoe, and a daughter looking at an advertisement for beauty aids, on the other, present a parent with the opportunity to help the child develop the critical thinking to perceive that the sports shoe is unlikely to give any boost to athletic ability, and that the cosmetics cannot make the daughter more beautiful than she already is.

As for telecommunications, in the olden days, if my daughter was going out anyplace, I would have made sure that when she left the house, she had the means to make phone calls home, or to a cab company, and that she had the means to get a cab home, if need be. This is a much less useful game plan these days, partly due to the disappearance of many of the pay phones. So today, I'd have a wireless phone (NOT a smart phone, just an old fashioned device that will make calls, and for which there is no text or data plan) that I would give her so that should there be a situation where she feels uncomfortable (or perhaps where I feel uncomfortable), we can reach each other if need be. As to texting, if my daugher or son were to be able to convince me that they needed a message plan, part of the negotiations would cover the point at which they were responsible for paying for the usage charges.

Finally, I would not prohibit a child old enough and with enough maturity to use it responsibly, from making use of some social media. For me, Facebook is unlikely ever to factor in this, as when I first looked at Facebook's Terms of Service agreement years ago, I found it seriously lacking, and in subsequent reviews, I've not felt it got any better. I'm sure there are social media sites that are vastly more appropriate for children, though, and I would be much more comfortable with a child honing any necessary skills on these sites.

Facebook Bullying
K.C.

*This post has been edited for profanity and to protect the privacy of our user.*

Hey for starters my name is K.I'm a very loud,outgoing,honest,and friendly person.I've switched schools alot this year was the hardest of all.It all started with me meeting a girl-"H" who I thought had become my new bestfrind in all reality she turn out to be a lying, backstabbing,name calling mean girl.Most of the drama was exploded across facebook.I had posted on "H's boyfriend A's page...I had said "A. your such a good friend.I love hanging out with you and H :)." Thats when it all started H had thought "I LIKE LIKED HER BOYFRIEND."Of couse I'd never liked him as anything more than a friend.She didn'n believe me. H posted on facebook that "I was the worst friend ever.I'm a whore.I was trying to steal her boyfriend.I'm a nasty Bitch...and much much worse!"It hurt my feelings no one ever said bad stuff about me like that.I was broken down/torn/hurt.The bullying has been going on the past 4 months.All on facebook publicly it doesn't stop H's friends are joining in too K,S,A,and K.They were on a mission to ruin my life.They call me a prostiute-(I've only ever kissed one guy),nasty bitch-(I'm nothing but nice to them),boyfriend stealing t**t(I've never stole someones boyfriend and I don't stink).H has ruined my year.It needs to stop!I've talked to adults at my school none of them will help because its all on facebook.I need advice please help, I want this to stop and for them to leave me alone.Facebook needs to monitor facebook pages and delete the facebook profiles of bullies!This needs to change!We need to stop girls like Hailey who abuse the use of facebook to bully others.

Two worlds is one too many
Bree Bella Baccaglini | Middlebury, VT

I, like most other teens my age, got a Facebook account when I was 16 years old. I uploaded about 100 pictures in the first day, personalized all the content, and spent the next 3 years pruning my online image, albeit at times subconsciously. While at times I enjoyed connecting with people I didn't see every day, and understood Facebook was a perfect tool to do so, it's taken a few years and a cross country move to realize the ramifications of hours upon hours spent in a virtual world "stalking" others and unknowingly promoting a unidimensional portrait of myself.
In highschool, I enjoyed browsing Facebook as a distraction to my homework...it would be a "reward' after a chunk of work had been completed. In the main, I would look at other people's photos, make inside jokes on my friends' walls, and send messages to long distance friends. While I was aware that Facebook was a time suck and that perhaps I should be using my time differently, I was completely ignorant of the emotional implications. In the fall of last year, when I arrived at my present station--in college in a small liberal arts school Middlebury College in Vermont--things refocused for me. I realized that every time I got off of Facebook, a weight was lifted. Moments on Facebook were moments of insecurity and unhappiness. Many people on my newsfeed were near strangers, and requests for "friendship" would come from people I met just once. These "friends" created an online network of mere acquaintances whose lives were smeared across my homepage, but distracted me from my own. Not only was my attention funneled to these people, but I also spent a fair amount of time musing on my friend's profiles in different colleges--colleges and universities, to be frank, that I had unrequited love for during the college application process. Looking at my friend's photos, I was plagued by the constant questions: are they having more fun than I am? If I had gotten into X school, would I have been happier? Little did I realize, my relationship with Facebook made me more worried about other people's lives in a way that crippled my ability to invest in my own. I was too busy fawning over other people's "happiness" to pursue activities that would augment my own. Instead of growing into my school, I was looking in the rearview mirror, playing the "what if" game about an application process that had been easily the most distressing period of my life. All in all, it was exceedingly unproductive. Eventually, I decided to deactivate my Facebook, and I haven't had one for 6 months now. When I want to see a photo or check up on friends, I had the account information of a few trusting friends--but these browsing periods aren't marked my the same wracking insecurity as before. I have let myself love my new life, and have come to realize that I belong nowhere else than in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Am I suggesting that such a realization would have been impossible if I had kept my Facebook, and even more extreme, that everyone else is preventing themselves from realizing their full potential by having an account? Absolutely not. I am characterizing my own relationship with this site, and believe that it would have just taken longer for me to realize my new place with new possibilities. Do I see the benefits? Yes, of course, so I would never purport to recommend a blanket extermination of Facebook communication, but I would advise caution: I would encourage an appraisal of the emotional and professional ramifications of using Facebook from day 1, so that everyone can live in the world they want, and not with one foot in a world they don't even control.

"spying" is allowed
Lisa Cooper

My husband and I have four children. Since I'm the one who's home with them, I try to stay on top of what technology is capable of these days so I can make the good available to my kids and shield them from the bad. I made my older kids "friend" me on Facebook so I can know what's going on for their protection. They have shown themselves to be so trustworthy that by 16 they have been allowed to use Internet capable devices in their rooms. Their younger brother is a different story. Not so much that I can't trust him not to sneak around but that his judgment and that of his friends is not good. I have the password to his Facebook and because his friends have posted inappropriate videos I have had to change the password to my son's account and not let him have it. I check his account briefly before I log him in so I can delete anything I need to delete. I had to delete a couple of his friends because they kept posting bad stuff. I've also had to order him to let me know as soon as he posts something so I can immediately delete it if there's a problem. Its not that I think he'll post anything inappropriate, but he sometimes posts things he thinks are funny which could hurt his friends' or just make him look foolish. The reason I let him post it is so I can show him what it looks like on screen and help him understand why he used poor judgment.
Our family rule is that we will pay for a line on our family cell phone plan when the children are in high school because at that point they tend to have activities get cancelled or run overtime or maybe we want to split up in a public place and it helps to be able to contact each other. We allowed the older boy and girl to pay for a line when they started 7th grade. When the oldest got her phone, she was supposed to turn the phone in to us each night for charging, but we kept forgetting and gave up because at that time we could view her call history and we saw she wasn't misusing the phone. Now we can't see the call history, so if number 3 decides to pay for a cell phone this summer, it is going to be set to only allow him to call family members. If he has a legitimate reason to call someone else, he will have to have a family member relay the message or do a three-way call. Obviously we cannot keep him from using someone else's cell phone to do things of which we won't approve, but this at least decreases the danger.

No Internet Censorship, Please
John

People of my generation have to deal with constant sensationalistic stories written by Luddites who want to legislate what we can and cannot do while ignoring the massive benefits that a free and independent internet offer. Without it, corrupt regimes in the Middle East would still be in place, and we would be more disconnected and nationalistic than before. The age of the Boomer has ended, and the new generations are taking their rightful place as the leaders of humanity. Reactionary "movements" like the nonsensical "common sense" movement are nothing more than boomers trying to assert their fading dominance over us. Your movement is trying to do the exact same thing as the Czars who banned the printing press because it was Satanic.

If this comment is not published, I will be disappointed but not surprised. Boomer reactionary cabals like this one like to suppress the truth as much as possible.

Stay on top of it
Orville Boutilier | Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Facebook is a conduit that enables communication, it's not a monster, it's not a spinning blade. When I was a kid, I'd hang out on the street corners to talk to my friends. Then came the telephone, so I spent all night on the phone. So I'm no stranger when it comes to understanding the need for stay in in touch with the crew. So I regress when dealing with my daughter on the issue; I understand.

I control the internet connection and cable connection. If things are not going my way (being the in-house "know best") I yank the cables. Now I've only had to do that once in several years. My solution for facebook? Have your kid "friend" you and then do a very thorough review of their facebook page. You have to temper your review to allow for the fact that there is a huge gap between how a 56 year old thinks and how a 13 year old thinks; but hey, I love Lady Gaga too! Also, make sure that the face book page they are logged onto is actually the same one that you are a friend on! That means walking in on them. One reason why Facebok has a jillion members is because 1/3 of them are probably aliases to fool the parents. There are so many tricks out there, that us old folks can get hood winked at every turn; we really don't "know" the half of it. I have key logging software on the computer and can track every move, if I feel that I need to. But you need to get them before they sneak off to the internet cafe.

What has REALLY worked well for me, is communicating with the kid, and being her friend. I know that some things would make the hair on my neck stand straight, but kids are people too and it might be totally OK and normal for them to want to look "sexy." There are limits, of course, but if you embarrass them and make them go upstairs and change, you are sending the wrong message. Why? Because you don't agree with her friends, and THAT is a problem. It's tough to get their attention when you are competing with facebook, but you are NOT competing with facebook, you are competing with a new found ability to stay connected with their friends, exchange photos, chat etc. 24/7. THAT is the situation. Why would you not want your kid to be able to do that? I'd rather her chat it up at home then for her to be out on the street corner.

I'm against the notion of technology taking over something near and dear to my heart; the care and concern for my daughter, but I'm no fool when it comes to making her understand what the reason for all this stuff is, and having access is no reason to get stupid and do dumb things. If your kid won't get stupid on you outside the online experiences, then chances are they'll include you in their digital life. You might have some cleanup work to do on your relationship with your kid, tend to it. Kids are going to be a lot smarter than us when they are adults, and our challenge is to teach them how to satisfy their insatiable need to know, and stay in good shape mentally at the same time. The internet, and Facebook, will not by themselves corrupt the kids. The kids will be adversely affected if we don't tool up for our jobs as parents and learn how to make using these resources work for us and out kids.

Growing up and being a beautiful woman is something I encourage my daughter to do, because it's a good thing and it could be a positive in her life. But being a beautiful stupid woman is something entirely different; they need to understand that and make the necessary connections to understanding why that is important. Chelsey Clinton could start there.

So while we talk about how much the internet and Facebook have done to facilitate communication, as parents we need to figure out how to have our kids love us more than the machines they use. Corporate entities like MTV could do heaps but only if there is a buck in it. I suggest living in the real world with your kids, be one for a while with them and don't fake it. Growing up and being an adult is something they should look forward to because it's going to happen without our co-operation, and if we already set a decent example by enjoying our adulthood in front of them, then that could help when it comes to maintaining your position as an authority on life and guidance. The age of 13 brings about many rapid and profound changes in a kid's life. They change, their bodies change and the things they talk about change. Parents need to change with them.

Relax, people

Hi, I'm Maggie. I'm 13, about to turn 14, and my parents only child (arn't I lucky?). For Facebook in our house, it's pretty easy: we have no ban.
Honestly, Facebook is a great thing. Now, I'm not saying that children should be on it 24/7, like when I'm trying to talk to friends and their having five more conversations on Facebook while at my house. It's kind of rude. But it's good when it's constructive.
For example, my old friends from back before we moved are facebook buddies. It's the only way to talk to them. I also sometimes use Facebook to post writing.
Here's a good policy to follow about facebook. Ask yourself these questions: Am I gaining anything from doing this? Do I have something else to do? If one of the answers is no, you shouldn't be on!

Modern Day Brady Bunch
Bream-Mo Bunch | Nashville, TN

My wife and I got married 5 years ago. Each of us brought 3 children from our previous marriage and we blended a family. We started with 5 boys ages 14, 13, 11, 11, and 7, and one girl aged 8. We have experienced a tremendous struggle dealing with the explosion of media devices. We now have 6 cell phones, 4 iPods, two iMacs, three MacBooks, 2 iPads, AppleTV, and streaming media like Netflix on three different TV screens! Keeping track of who watches what and when has been an ongoing battle. We quickly implemented a ban on TV on school nights and have stuck with it unless it is something we watch all together. However, the weekends were a virtual screen fest all hours of the night and day! So, we have implemented "Screen Free Sunday". This means no screens are turned on, cell phones, iPods, TV, computer, all day long. We plan a family outing instead. This could be a picnic in the park, visit to the zoo or museum, or simply hanging out around our pool. This has also been difficult, because it is so automatic to turn on a screen during the day!

Top 3 issues to us

With cyberbullying, we know that cyberbullying targets everyone at all times. Our rules prohibit cyberbullying and we have set responsible tech use policy. With facebook, our family members could post his/her pictures of me doing computer maintainence on the internet which could embarrase anyone. Sometimes, our households could overshare everything about me issuing legistlation. Sometimes, I know that adults and kids can still cyberbully others online. If our family members cyberbully others, we issue consequences. With privacy, there is no privacy guarente on facebook or twitter if they cyberbully others or post embarrassing posts. I would get this book to help raise my family in a digital age and rely on common sense media for more advise as well as other sites. This book would be recommended to others at any time.

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