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January 14, 2009


It amazes me how many "friends' my kids have -- "friends" being anyone they connected to on facebook. But with a cell phone and a laptop, my college-age daughter is able to maintain friendships all over the country. it's a bit scary.

Some of the people I count my closest, best friends are people I've met through blogging (hello, Jen! Heya, Wendy!!). These are women who know some of my darkest secrets, who share some of my dearest values, needs, and motivators. We don't have to have met to know that we're sympatico. (Though I have met one of those two, and other blogging friends.) They are no less "real" than my in-town, face-to-face friends.

Teens are undeniably less skilled at evaluating the good and the bad of relationships; they are far too prone to gossip, bullying, and back-stabbing -- but they do that face to face just as much as online.

There are pros and cons to each mode of interaction and relationship. One of the advantages of Facebook, as my youngest has discovered, is that, should you find yourself being bullied that way, you can just pull the plug on it. Close the account, and they can't reach you. The same cannot be said of "real" life...

another advantage of facebook for me is that my daughter is required to maintain "friendship" with me. this means i see EVERYTHING she does.

any time she changes her status, any time she comments on someone's photo. in fact any time she befriends someone.

i know it all. and the first time she unfriends me, her facebook account dies.

Moderation is best in all things, and technology is included. When parents supervise and train their children well, they'll be safer. Perfectly safe? Never. But the odds are better with vigilance.

As a web developer, I was also pleased to see the common-sense evaluation of risk associated with teen social networks. But it doesn't mean that parents can be any less vigilant. After all, while the risk of having a fire at our home is relatively small, we still maintain our smoke detector. The same applies to parent involvement and supervision of teen online activities.

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