Shut Out of Their Social Network and You Might Not Even Know

by on ‎02-22-2011 10:04 AM

Social networking hasn’t been around for very long and yet there are some tried and true pieces of advice I give parents about it. “When your child is old enough for an account – which should be 13 years old by the terms of use agreement – you should be connected to their account by being a member of their network.” On some accounts, this terminology is called “friending.” For those few adults who have been sitting on the sidelines of social networking, their child’s participation should finally prompt them to get in there and join up. You don’t have to be an avid player and you don’t have to post what you’re doing but you should use the opportunity to talk to your child about how social networks work, what the risks and rewards are and to explore safety settings like privacy together.  But be prepared for your child's use of the social network to take some interesting twists and turns, some of which may be hidden entirely from you


What most of us parents find is that after the initial excitement of creating the account is past, your child may start using their social network in ways you never anticipated. They’ll join groups that celebrate their newly emerging musical taste. They’ll “friend” people they meet on a vacation and may likely never see again. Or they’ll “like” an inappropriate joke. Photos and videos start to appear, often from the accounts of their connections and your child is “flagged” in them, so you see it in your own activity feed. What I’ve found is that if you can see all the busy activity from your child, you should actually feel reassured.

There’s a new trend or at least ability of our kids to keep us in their friend network but shield us from their activity. So you, terrific parent, are busy telling your friends that you and your teen have a “great” relationship – look, you’re their friend on their social network! He trusts you! But suddenly you notice everything seems too quiet on their end. They aren’t posting updates like they used to and you’re not seeing the two way conversation between them and their friends. Do me a favor and click on your child’s social networking page. If you don’t see the usual activity on that summary page, be suspicious.


Users of Norton Online Family can see how much time is being spent on social networks and the account names (and claimed ages for each account). The free, award winning family safety service can be helpful to alert you to problems or concerns and in this case, may show you an online disconnect between what you can see on your children’s social network and what they are actually doing.


You may find, as I did, that your child has used the very privacy settings you showed them to prevent you from seeing their posts. They can do that with individual posts and share them with just a few people or one person.  They can also set up their posts by default to exclude you. Suddenly, your “trust” relationship with your child feels very untrusting.


My recommendation is to be alert for this sort of a change. It doesn’t mean your child is bad. To them, it’s probably the online equivalent of texting their friend instead of using the phone so the conversation stays private. But given the digital nature of social networks and the various possibilities of risk and reward it contains, it’s still a good idea to keep the PIR (parent in room), especially virtually.


With my own teens, once I made the discovery, there were some discussions, some denial and threats of consequences. We’ve since reverted to normal privacy settings. I still keep my promise to comment on their social networking activity only F2F (face to face) and never by adding my digital remarks in their “space.” But I’ve learned an important lesson about the changeable nature of teens, their natural desires to distance themselves from their parents and the inevitability of how this might look once they are out on their own in the adult world, only a few years away. For now, I’ll keep double-checking to see if I’m being allowed in the virtual room and allowed to observe the conversations.

by Alison23 on ‎02-23-2011 12:34 PM

How do I put a query on the forum?

by on ‎02-24-2011 05:35 PM

Hi Alison,

Just visit the forum related to your issue and then click the orange button marked "new message" to start a new thread.

Here's a link to the forum for Norton Internet Security:

by jmcg1213 on ‎02-25-2011 10:47 PM

I like this article, to a degree, but I think you believe that kids or teens are entitiled to the internet. THEY ARE NOT, if anything, a kid or teen needs to prove their ability to act responsibly before ever being allowed unfettered access to the internet, even then it should be fettered. Teens have an uncanny ability to do stupid things and always need to be guided,ALWAYS. I'm old enough to remember the dread and dire brought by the threat of video games on kids. If some punk stole a car it was because of Grand Theft Auto, no it's because the kid's a punk, and his or her friends encourage the behavior. But with the internet punks and misfits group together on line, and encourage behavior. A kids opinion of him or herself is most likely wrong, but how can the parants remedy this when the kid is online talking to their peers, the same peers that caused or encouraged their opinion to begin with. Parants find the internet safe because they know where their kids are, but they don't know WHO their kids are untill it's to late.

by suorpio on ‎03-04-2011 12:42 PM

If a teen can deftly manage her info online well enough to keep parents from seeing parts of it, I think that bodes well for her being able to prevent other unintended audiences from seeing it, too. I would be way more disturbed by a teen who lets it all hang out without any barriers.



by techuth on ‎03-05-2011 07:33 AM

it depends on the use. some people use everything poitive and some negative

by on ‎07-26-2011 04:50 PM

It disturbs me to some extent that so much attention is diverted to spying and watching rather than teaching.  I don't understand the purpose in providing children with the ability and equipment to get into problems and then limiting that ability or observing their behaviour. 


It also bothers me that we are raising an entire generation of people that are lacking body language skills and the ability to socialize in the real world.It is easy to say that it is a more dangerous world now, but it really isn't.  We had scary, vicious people in my youth, but we learned to keep ourselves safe rather than be locked up in the house on a machine.  We socialized at school, or after school and on weekends, in person.  We learned the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.


When my two boys were young, the computer was not connected to the net.  They were not allowed to touch it without supervision, or the power cord would have been removed.  It was used for work, for school, for projects, and we all learned to play a computer game together.  The older one could shoot, the younger one could duck and get us out of trouble, and I had to work out the puzzles.  It took us a year to get through the levels, but it is a favourite time for all three of us still.


We are depriving our children of the life experiences that they need to develop and teaching them that conversation can be typed instead of verbal, that emotional experiences can be ended with the click of a mouse, and that friends are anybody on Facebook that wants to friend them. 


Instead of giving our children our attention, we are spying on them from another room.  No wonder kids figure out a way to get around behind our backs.  Guess what, we always did too.  Think back.  What's changed?