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We have a 15 yr old daughter who just signed up for Facebook. No, I don't plan to friend her, but my wife and I do plan to ask her to see what's going back and forth, from her and her friends. (On occasion, not often, and not making a fuss over it)

The day after she signed up, she got a friend request from a friend's mother, and asked me how to respond. I think that she should reject the request, and feel the invitation was inappropriate.

My question - Is it appropriate for an adult to want to friend her teen's IRL friends, or is this a bit out of line? It strikes me as a bit creepy.

Update - daughter agreed to put her account on a private setting, and I'll work with her to verify it's set. She reported back that multiple friends have other friend's moms following, so I'll admit it is less creepy than I originally thought. Now I just think these mom's need to be less in their kid's faces. I appreciate the feedback here.

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A typical rule in a lot of households is that a child has to friend their parents. It's just about keeping an eye on things...also encourages kids to think about what they post. –  DA01 Apr 30 at 22:16
    
Understood. I have no issue with a parent doing so. It's the parent offering to friend my daughter I find inappropriate. –  JoeTaxpayer Apr 30 at 22:19
    
I get the same "weird" vibe off those actions, too. However, the only way you're going to have a chance of knowing the other parent's intentions is to ask her. We would love to be helpful, but mindreaders we are not. :) –  Valkyrie May 1 at 10:50
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It's great that she asked you for advice! That must be reassuring. –  DanBeale May 1 at 14:03
    
It would subjectively feel a lot more creepy to many if the friend request was from another kid's dad. Your reaction to that should guide your decision on the mother. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 8 at 7:54

3 Answers 3

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Not everyone is familiar enough with social media to make the best educated decisions.

It may very well be that the friend's mother wants to add her daughter's friends as a way of keeping tabs on her daughter's online social activities.

I don't think this an unreasonable approach, although it doesn't guarantee that she'll be able to see any inappropriate behavior.

The privacy functions on Facebook, while crude, and far from actually providing privacy, have some flexibility. It is not difficult to hide posts from people you have friended (of course, the counter to that is that it is not difficult to see posts from a friend who is trying to hide posts from you... or even someone who isn't your friend!).

In fact, I'm not sure I understand the benefit of not planning to friend your own daughter. Is this intended to allow her some privacy, so she can feel like you trust her, or is it to spare her any potential embarrassment from having her parents listed as "friends"?

If it is to give her some space and independence, I'd suggest an alternate route: friend her, and then go over the privacy settings with her, and show her how to hide posts from you.

Having her listed as a friend is helpful if one or both of you use the site with any frequency. The private messaging alone might justify it, plus it could become a healthy outlet for you to strengthen your relationship with her (yeah, that might be a stretch with a 15 year old... but it could happen!).

More importantly, though, it is good to discuss safety and privacy with her, so she is aware of what is and is not possible, what general best practices are, and what the risks might be. Presenting this dialog in the context of "here's how to hide stuff from me" shows that level of implicit trust you may be trying to convey, plus makes the whole conversation very non-confrontational.

You can also use the friend's parent as a demonstration example: have your daughter accept the friend request (which will likely make a better impression on the mother than ignoring, declining, or blocking the request!), and then go through changing the settings to hide the friend's mother's posts, and hide your daughter's posts from her.

In either case, be sure to emphasize that none of the privacy settings in Facebook are fool-proof (I'm not sure if it still is the case, by one easy way to bypass restrictions was to send a friend request; until the other person expressly rejected it, the request would give you access to content as if the request had been accepted). Discuss social engineering scams, the possibility of people impersonating people she actually knows, what happens if someone else gets access to her account, or one of her friends' accounts, and the possibility that she might some day have to show her account to a potential employer.

If you aren't aware of all of these things already, look them up and familiarize yourself with these very real risks.

Make sure she understands that the only way to keep information truly private on Facebook is to not post it there at all.

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Much appreciated. The irony is that I am on Facebook under my pen name, and my daughter has respected my privacy and alter-ego. I'd rather not have to set up another account. I was trying to understand the appropriateness of the mother's behavior. My own daughter understands the risks of the internet and is safe on line, and the topic is one often discussed over dinner. –  JoeTaxpayer Apr 30 at 20:21
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@JoeTaxpayer There is only one way to be safe online... don't post things. Assume everything is public. That said, the appropriateness really depends on the mother -- some are chatty and friendly with every one of their daughter's friends, while others stay out of their child's personal social life... both attitudes work for various personalities and parent-child relationships. –  Jeremy Miller May 1 at 3:18
    
@JeremyMiller - I understand that. There are many aspects of social network sites. My question was strictly about the appropriateness of a teen's friend's parent 'friending' on FB. Say this woman started showing up at my daughter's dance recitals. If the daughter (i.e. my daughter's friend) were with her, I'd think nothing of it. If she came solo, uninvited, it would strike me as creepy. Public performance, I know. Question is not about safety, per se, but one adult's on line actions. –  JoeTaxpayer May 1 at 10:01
    
+1 around here it's usual for parents to friend their kids/other kids friends for oversight. In fact if your child rejects their friend offer their kid might get told not to facebook-friend yours. My child is too young for facebook but that's the rules on instagram. –  mxyzplk May 7 at 22:03

While I personally only friend teens who I'm relatively close to (or would like to be closer), like my nieces and nephews, and would not encourage a teen to accept a stranger's friend request, I don't see a problem with accepting an adult acquaintance's friend request.

I think our society has suffered somewhat by keeping children mostly segregated in their age groups. Children can learn a lot from friendships with adults, and vice versa. How can we teach them how adults should behave in a social network if they don't have the opportunity to observe good examples? That broadening of experience is one of the reasons we homeschool.

Just keep basic safety precautions in mind. If the interaction starts to become creepy, make sure to do something about it early. However, all media alarmism aside, the chances of that are relatively small.

That being said, this is a good opportunity to teach her to be assertive about her own preferences. Social networks are supposed to be fun and comfortable. It's not rude to ignore a friend request. If she doesn't like the idea of reading a person's updates, and doesn't like the idea of someone else reading her updates, for whatever reason, she shouldn't feel obligated to accept the request, whether from an adult or another teen.

On the other hand, likely part of the dilemma is that due to her inexperience, she probably doesn't know if it will be a positive experience or not. In that case, there's nothing wrong with giving it a trial to see if she likes the interaction. There's nothing wrong with unfriending someone or hiding their updates if it turns out not to be a positive experience for you.

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It really depends on the parent, and her relationship with her kid's friends.

I don't have a teenager, yet, but I worked for 6 years as a middle and high school music instructor, and have had students add me over the course of those years (I had created an alternate account for this, to provide separation from my "professional" life activity and personal life activity). For some students, their parents didn't have a Facebook account, and for others, their parent(s) added literally every one of their child's friends to their own account.

One specific instance of the latter was a VERY community-involved mother who had a highly communicative relationship with her daughter, and her friends. She added everyone on Facebook as a means of keeping in touch and disseminating information about events and get-togethers (admittedly, I'm from a small town in PA. This kind of thing seems less common in more populous areas)

If you aren't comfortable with it, you can tell your daughter that you aren't comfortable with it. If she came to you for guidance, then she clearly wasn't immediately comfortable, either. Ultimately, if you're leaving the control of her own social network in her hands (not even adding her as a friend to monitor activity), the best you can hope for is that she asks you for your opinion, you provide it, but make it clear that it's her decision.

All in all, she seems like a pretty smart cookie. If you haven't done so, already, give her a crash course on unfriending people, blocking people, and encourage regular friend purges (every few months).

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