Teaching Your Teen to be Smart About Friending on Facebook

Something parents can sometimes find astounding is the amount of Facebook friends their teen has. According to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends on their site. When people look at their list of friends on Facebook, many find that the list is not only made up of close friends that they talk to on a regular basis, but also includes family members, coworkers, and even acquaintances. While it is fun to be able to share what is happening in life with so many people and have insight into their lives you wouldn’t have otherwise, there is reason to be wary of rampant and indiscriminate friending.

One reason that many parents are scared of is their kids meeting strangers they met on social networks in real life. Mary Kay Hoal writes in the Yoursphere blog that “14% of children 9 – 14 years old, and 12% of high school students 15 – 18 years old purposefully chose to meet with a stranger (in real life) they had chatted with online according to research published in the July issue of the American Journal of Nursing.” An easy way for parents to help prevent this is to just make a rule for their kids that they cannot friend strangers on Facebook. This simple social networking rule could help to stop any potential problems before they happen.

Another reason many people have heard about either in the media, or even from their own Facebook friends is oversharing; specifically, posting status updates or photos that are okay for some people to read but not others. To teach your teen positive social networking habits, it is good to encourage them to only post things on Facebook that they would be okay with anyone seeing, ranging from close friends to their grandmother to people working in college admissions. But maybe your teen is concerned about privacy (excellent!) and wants to put acquaintances from class on a limited profile view, and only show their entire profile to very close friends and family. For this, there are lists.

Facebook lists allows you to put friends into groups that you can customize your privacy settings for, which can allow you to put some people on a limited profile view but not everyone. The first step to having some Facebook friends on a limited profile view is to create a list. To do this, click on “Edit Friends” from the “Account” tab pull down. Next, click on “+Create a List”. Then, name your list, and select Facebook friends to add to it. When you’re done adding friends, click “Create List”. Now, you can go to your privacy settings and specify which content you would like to block people on that list seeing. To do this, click on “Privacy Settings” from the ”Account” tab, then click on the “Customize Settings” button near the bottom center. Next, choose whatever type of content from your Facebook that you would like to block that list from seeing, and click the “Customize” option. Under “Hide this from”, type in the name of your list. In the future, when you want to add new Facebook friends to your limited profile view list, just go back to “Edit Friends” where you created the list. Then, go to your list which is located in the left column. From here, you can add or remove people from that list. I should mention that Facebook friends do not see that they are added to a list that limits what they view on your profile, so no hurt feelings among those casual acquaintances.

So, there is no need to worry about your teen friending people on Facebook, so long as they are smart about it. Your teen only friending people they have met in real life, and showing good judgment when it comes to who sees the entirety of their Facebook page can prevent many potential problems.

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