Know Your Child’s Facebook Password
Some people have argued that a parent asking for their child’s Facebook password is like making them give their parent the key to their diary or private journal. I disagree. A diary is hidden away in a child’s closet, under their mattress or secured in the privacy of his or her desk. A diary is personal and intended for only its author to read.
Other people have argued that a parent asking for their child’s Facebook password is like trying to ease-drop on their child’s private conversations. Again, I disagree. A private conversation among friends, while important to the conversation’s participants, has limited long term ramifications on the participants.
Facebook is part of one’s online presence. There are billions of people just one copy and paste away from seeing what your child posts online. Whether any of us like it or not, the reality is that privacy is not really part of Facebook. If someone wants privacy, shouldn’t they refrain from putting it on Facebook to begin with?
What one say or does online can have a lasting impact on a child’s reputation or his or her safety. Something a child posts or a picture they are tagged in by a friend can haunt them for the rest of their lives. A Facebook message that a child thinks is “private” can be forwarded or reposted elsewhere leading to the loss of a job, problems at school, bullying or other social issues.
A diary or a private conversation among friends cannot cause these types of issues for a child. As mom or dad, we have a responsibility to know when and if we need to coach, counsel, correct, redirect, teach (otherwise known as “parenting”) our kids. Knowing what our kids are posting online is part of that process. It’s really that simple. Let your child keep the key to his or her diary, but if they’re on Facebook, then as a parent you need to know their password.
Keep in mind however that having access to your child’s Facebook password shouldn’t be a license to read everything they post online. The object is to be able to provide reasonable parental oversight without becoming a stalker. Use this opportunity to build trust with your child, not to undermine it.
“My child won’t give me her password!”
This isn’t the big deal your child insists that it is. You are not the first parent with a child that wants to assert her “right to privacy on Facebook” (Please refer back to the top of this article if you or your child still thinks posting online is private). For as long as there have been parents and children, kids have told parents that we:
- Set their curfew too early;
- Force them to do more chores then their friends; and
- Expect them to eat too many vegetables.
This list could go on and on but you get the point. The Facebook password issue is no different than hundreds of other times parents have had to explain the difference between “a right” and “a privilege”. Use of the Internet access/computer/mobile phone/gaming system/mobile data plan you likely pay for is not your child’s right but is a privilege based on meeting the expectations you establish – such as sharing their Facebook password.
You gave them access to Facebook without first setting the expectation that you’ll need their password and now you’re not sure how to change the rules? Simple. You’re not perfect and now you know better. Rules changed. Problem now solved.
How would you handle these responses from your child?
- “I refuse to come home with the family car when you tell me to!”
- “I refuse to do chores before going out this weekend. You cannot make me!”
- “I’m not eating the food you bought or made me. Make me what I ordered!”
This would never fly, would it? My point is simple. You already know how to handle this Facebook password Tug of War. Set the expectations and tell your child why you are setting them so they learn something. Be as responsible with your authority as you expect your child to be with their privilege to use Facebook and it will all work out just fine. It won’t be easy, but parenting rarely is.