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Am I wrong to ask my 13 year-old-son to give me his password before allowing him to use Facebook?

My son turned 13 today. He was really looking forward to getting on Facebook—until I told him he couldn't unless I had the password and his father and I friended him, too.


He was appalled and now refuses to use what I consider to be the new telephone. But am I missing something? I write about social media for a living—I know how utterly cruel the world can be. But I also don't want to be a helicopter parent. I do trust him. I just don't trust the world. Am I wrong? Being over protective? I've looked at studies on this and I know 76% of parents monitor their kids' Facebook accounts. And as a social media advocate I even tell people not to let kids online unsupervised—so why do I feel bad?


Our family has an explicit policy that has been in place since our eldest child got her first online account at age 12:

"For so long as you live under our roof, privacy is a privilege that is earned by responsible actions, and not the inherent right of a minor child."

In practice, this means that (a) I reserved the right to monitor ALL communications and accounts at all times, but (b) the frequency of such monitoring decreased in inverse proportion to responsible use of the medium.

It also meant that I *never* used such access to interfere in things that were—as I determined in my sole discretion as a parent—truly personal issues such as sexuality, friendships, etc.

My children (now all adults) were not overly happy with this explicit structure, but they understood it, and there was no "sneaking around" necessary on my part. As for me, I was—and am—completely at peace with this policy, and would absolutely, positively do it again in exactly the same way.
I certainly understand why you would; some teenagers use Facebook very irresponsibly. You need to be careful that you are just checking to prevent cyber-bullying and pictures/statuses about illegal activities. Make sure his security settings are strong. I think it's better that you are just friends with him, rather than having his password--you don't need to read his private messages talking to some girl he likes

If you do take his password, after a few months of observing how he uses it (and not micromanaging every post), I would urge you to let him change it. Facebook use can be scary for parents, but it is an important part of your son's social life. It seems radically different than previous generations, but really it isn't. You having his password is the equivalent of your parents listening to all of your phone calls when you were a teenagers.

I'm 17 and I've had a Facebook account since I was 13.  I only just became friends with my mom, and that was my own choice. Other than my brother once telling me I might want to delete an emotional status about a relationship (which I did), I've used it pretty responsibly.  I've learned how to block more silly statuses and photos from my work friends. But I'm glad I've had privacy--my facebook chat is filled with conversations with friends and romantic partners. (No, not sexting, just conversations no different than teenagers have been having for hundreds of years.)

Monitoring your son's facebook is not the best way to make sure he's being safe and responsible. Teenagers can get in trouble with and without the internet. If you know his friends and trust his character, you'll be fine without seeing the inner workings of his social life. There are plenty of appropriate things we don't want our parents to see!

I am a big believer in trust between parents and their kids. It's worked out well for  my two siblings and me--we've all been good students, with no detentions, let alone arrests, between us. We knew that we were given freedom because our parents believed we were smart and responsible, and that if we messed up we'd lose some freedom. And we proved that their trust was well-founded.  I think it's a better approach.

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