In the past, kids often discussed their parents: "How much do you tell them?" "Do you lie to your parents?" "Do your parents always know where you are?" This discussions with their friends often helped kids decide how they should interact with their own parents. In today's social media obsessed world, the question has shifted to "Are you Facebook friends with your parents?"
According to a survey done this year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in conjunction with Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, 66 percent of parents with a child between ages 12 and 17 use social networking. 80 percent of parents who do use these sites and whose kids do as well have friended their kid.
Why Teens and Parents are Friends
Teens are infamous for their intense desire for privacy and individualism, so why on earth would this many agree to be friends with their parents? Some want to have better communication with their parents, according to a survey done by Kaplan Test Prep about Facebook use by high school juniors and seniors. But for 16 percent of respondents to that survey, they friended their parents only because it was a requirement for them to have a page.
This is more common with new teen social media users. According to an article in the Seattle Times, Tamyra Pierce, a professor of mass communications at California State University in Fresno, said that it is more common for younger teens on the site to be friends with their parents, which makes sense. She also said many teens have a second Facebook page that they use for their parents.
Why Not Be Friends?
So honestly, what's the big deal? Why are some kids so resistant to befriending their parents online? Well, "Half of parents who use social media (and who also have teens who use the sites) say they have commented or responded directly to something that was posted to their child's profile or account," according to Pew. If frequent, this can get quite irritating and embarrassing, regardless of the content of the posts. And the embarrassment quotient doesn't only apply to teens; I am often squeamish to check my Facebook wall when I get a notice saying a parent or older relative posted on it.
Then the privacy factor comes into play. Because 59 percent of parents of kids with accounts have talked to them about something posted that concerned them, some kids become more reluctant to share with their parents. It can often feel like stalking, and it can be invasive. I had a similar experience when my younger brother was in high school. I was worried about something I saw on his wall, and when he wouldn't delete it I went to my parents, which infuriated him. Four years later he still refuses to be Facebook friends with me, my boyfriend, or my friends, though we're close in the real world.
What To Do?
The best case scenario is for both parents and children to be respectful to each other. It's okay to be friends with each other online, but most parents of teens should resist the urge to comment for their child's world to see. Make the comment in person. Also, if your parents shouldn't see it, don't post it. Finally, kids who are worried about what their parents might see on their page should reconsider having that content posted at all. In 2011, Kaplan surveyed college admissions officers, and 24 percent reported checking an applicant's Facebook page.