Post #1 — Facebook and Parenting… providing another frame of reference

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I love Facebook. Keeping in touch with and watching the lives of the people I know or once knew is my favorite part of Facebook. It is what I thought I was signing up for when I joined the social network. What I didn’t expect was how it was going to influence the relationship I had with my son and how I approached parenting him.

Brandon just left home two weeks ago for University and the other night I was missing him quite a bit. So, I was glancing through his pictures on Facebook and saw many that I had never seen before. Without Facebook, I would have missed out on this part of his life. Many of them were taken by other people and showed a different side of my son. I saw him surrounded by friends, and having fun. Although we were close and talked on a daily basis, his life with his friends was relatively unknown to me as it is to most parents, I am sure! (Thinking back, I am very sure that my parents didn’t know anything about that part of my life.) Looking through Brandon’s pictures made me think of how Facebook has been a presence in our lives through these years.

I had been a part of Facebook before Brandon and when he wanted to sign up I insisted that I be one of his Facebook friends. I told him that if he unfriended me or blocked me that all access to electronics would be cut off. That was the deal and so we both agreed to Brandon having a Facebook page. He was thirteen years old.

Weeks later when I was scrolling through Facebook on a Monday night I saw my junior high son tagged in pictures taken at a high school party. The comments were what helped me piece it all together. He was supposed to be at a sleepover at one of his friends. A deep conversation and some disciplinary action ensued and I was very thankful for Facebook!

Over the years there were many subtle things that I saw on Facebook that directed my questions and have helped me with our conversations. In a relationship, out of a relationship, posts on God, music and Marijuana; the list could go on and on. I didn’t always like what I was seeing, but reality was right there, there was no denying who my son was on those pages.

In my opinion, wise parents watch their children’s social networking. Not through mistrust, but knowing that when used properly it becomes an additional frame of reference that provides a level of understanding that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Ultimately this could have a positive impact on parenting and on society as a whole.

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2 responses to “Post #1 — Facebook and Parenting… providing another frame of reference”

  1. Carly Abraham says :

    Neat post! I like how you’ve used Facebook to keep an eye on your child. I’m sure this is a whole different side of parenting that has never been done before in the world. It’s neat to see how parents (and people in general) have to change their styles to keep up with rapid change.

    For me, I wish people would spend a few more seconds thinking about what they post. I don’t think posts about their child’s attempt at potty training should be on the internet. I wish people wouldn’t post their phone numbers on Facebook. I wish there were less typos. Anyways, I believe Facebook is inherently positive, if used properly.

    Looking forwards to seeing more!

  2. kmwhitcan says :

    Interesting post! I was struck by your comment that Facebook had revealed a different side of your son. This got me thinking about the idea of privacy in a slightly different way. I wonder if these types of social media are simply revealing our true selves, or at least an aspect of our true selves that may differ depending on who the viewer is. Obviously, there is some content that is best not posted, and it would be troubling to discover that one’s teenager was involved in dangerous or reckless activities. Beyond that, though, it’s interesting to think about how social media allows individuals to broadcast information about themselves in a new way, and how other individuals can add or interpret this through tagging and commenting.

    I have read an interesting article by Hogan (2010) that takes Goffman’s idea that life is a stage on which we present ourselves and applies his theory as an allegory for social media platforms. For example, private matters would be considered a “backstage” area, and public information would be placed “frontstage”. Information posted to social media can create either representations of oneself, or serve as a type of performance, and the social media itself forms an ‘exhibition’ of which the owner is a curator. In this way, individuals present their identities.

    Particularly interesting to me was Hogan’s suggestion that any place could be ‘backstage’ to a different ‘front stage’, depending on context. For example, the young man in the original posting above was keeping some of his activities private (backstage) from his parents but revealing these activities to his friends (frontstage). It is likely that other activities were kept private from his friends (backstage) but not from his parents or other groups (frontstage). I just found this to be an interesting thought – that individuals reveal certain aspects of their identity to some groups, but not to others, and that even what we consider to be our private backstage self may not be so private after all. (I suppose we could choose to allow certain individuals to come backstage, if we wanted!)

    In my opinion, this is part of what makes it such a challenge for people to decide what content is appropriate to share via social media, and what isn’t. Just as in a drama, the audience (i.e. Facebook viewers) would have a different response to the content on Facebook, similar to the way audience members might interpret a play differently. In any case, others could definitely learn more about us. Food for thought!

    Reference

    Hogan, B. (2010). The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing performances and exhibitions online. Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society, 30(6), 377-386. Retrieved from: http://bst.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/content/30/6/377.short

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