thoughts about sharing Facebook with my daughter

For the past two years, I've shared my Facebook profile with my daughter Kaitlin. Now that she's turning thirteen, she will get her own account. Thirteen is the age that Facebook thinks people are ready to have an account. Not that I advocate letting Facebook make decisions for my family, but when my daughter was ten and "the only one of my friends who doesn't have a Facebook!," I thought that thirteen sounded better than ten.

Besides, I have a thing about entering false birth dates to get something you want.

Over the course of two years, I've been asked several times about sharing my profile with my daughter. Usually with an accompanying proclamation of how hard it must be.

I don't know. It wasn't that hard. Though it did definitely change my experience of Facebook. And that's not such a bad thing, actually.

I used to get excited every time I saw a red notification at the top of my Facebook page, like Pavlov's dogs when they heard the bell. When I realized the notifications were mostly for her, I stopped salivating when I saw the little red balloon.

Sharing my account with my daughter forced me to think about how and why I use Facebook. It also helped me enforce some much needed boundaries.

Facebook connects people. It's easy to see why it can be so addicting, especially if you are feeling lonely. Sometimes - if a person isn't careful - connecting online can be like a bad drug, a synthetic high. I confess, I was a Facebook addict. Sharing my Facebook with Kaitlin has been like going through Facebook rehab.

We've had conversations about privacy on social media, of course. Initially that was my primary concern. But as I looked at my news feed, increasingly filled with posts from my middle school Facebook friends, I realized that we also needed to have conversations about boundariesappropriate sharing and unsubscribing.

I like the "unsubscribe" option. You are still "friends," and can see their timeline when you go visit it, but their posts will no longer be in your news feed. To be honest, most of my Facebook friends that I unsubscribed from were Kaitlin's friends, not mine. (I first talked with her about why I wanted to unsubscribe and she was fine with it.) Being Facebook friends with her friends has given me insight into what kids' news feeds look like. They probably look a lot like the halls of the middle school sound like. And I don't want my newsfeed -or hers - to look like that. You can't unsubscribe from it in the middle school hallways, but you don't have to subject yourself to it on Facebook.

Boundaries and the unsubscribe option are our friends.

We've had lots of conversations that we probably wouldn't have had if we didn't share our Facebook. I've really enjoyed that. I feel like she's given me a gift by agreeing to share Facebook with me. A look into her interaction with her friends that I wouldn't otherwise have had. I was privy to all the mundane message interactions and all the interesting ones too. If I saw anything that concerned me, we would talk about it offline.

I tried to stay out of her conversations and comments. But one time I couldn't get a hold of her and I saw that she was having a conversation on Facebook with a friend. So I jumped into the conversation to tell her something and promptly blew her friend's mind. It took him a while to get that it was me having a conversation with Kaitlin, not just Kaitlin posting several messages to him.

I imagine that it has been a little bit confusing for some of my friends to follow our posts. Once Kaitlin posted about when she had fun with a bunch of her friends at the cabin between baseball games. A friend of mine from high school thought it was me posting.

We had a good laugh about what Darlene must have thought if it had actually been me posting that. That's when I changed my middle name to AndKaitlin.

The only bummer about sharing the account with her is that some people unfriended me, and I imagine other people unsubscribed. That's why I made myself a page on Facebook, so that my friends who didn't want middle school-ish posts in their news feeds could still stay in touch with me. Except then I felt like I was spamming everyone who liked my page and was still subscribed to my profile.

When Kaitlin heard me telling someone about that little drawback to sharing my profile with her, she got sad. She felt bad about me losing friends, but I explained to her that I was totally okay with losing Facebook friends over sharing an account with her. People who want to stay in touch with me know how to keep in touch with me. And I know how to contact them. Facebook is not the only way to be in contact with people. She knew this, of course. But it was good to have that conversation. What I gained was far greater than what I lost.

I think I'm actually going to miss sharing my profile with her. It wasn't hard at all. It was lots of fun. I gained a lot of respect for her, seeing how she interacts with her friends. I'm glad she let me see that up close and personal.

Happy thirteenth Birthday, Kaitlin. 
I'm so glad I get to be your mom. 
I consider it a wonderful compliment when people say they see you in me.
I love you so much.


Lucy said...

This was a good read and says a lot about you...I have a thing about making up a date as well. It is good to talk to them eg;news feeds..I have happened upon my older girls fb when she hasn't logged off and yes, it's appalling! I hope you and your daughter continue to be 'friends' long after fb is obsolete:)

Jessica said...

I love this. So much. Happy Birthday to Kaitlin! I respect and admire you both for following the rules. That's so important to teach your children (whether or not you agree with the rules). I am all for ways to increase communication with our kids and this was such a perfect way regarding social media. Now you can share with Sarah if she wants an account prior to her 13th ;) I haven't been asked yet by any of my kids and I'm ok with that (I have a hard enough time monitoring my news feed with some adults ;))!

Christine Pennington said...

Thank you for this post. I am a parent that fell into the trap of letting Jessie have a FB, it started so she had another way to communicate with her older siblings that live far away. I am on hers as much as my own---over 95%of her friends are adults, {family and church friends}. Your writing reminds me that I need to talk to her and do the unsubscribing with her present so I can teach/explain why I did it. I am amazed at the garbage the adults click LIKE on {even our "churchy" friends. Thank you for doing the right thing as a parent, very inspiring.

Gwendolyn T said...

This sounds like a great idea. I know you might have felt like you did it out of necessity at the time, but were able to learn so much. I love that.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday to your daughter. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I always like reading what you write. Really. You have a good way with words because, I think, you have a good way with life. -Kari Coppinger

Alyson McMahon said...

Hi Anne! I'm going to reply to your comment on my blog, here because you're a no-reply blogger. ;) I am SO sorry if I ever made you feel that way. I know just what you're talking about. Lately I am a HORRIBLE blog reader. Horrible! I promise to be better. And, I promise to read your blog. I LOVED reading this post and think that sharing a fb account is actually a REALLY great idea to prepare our kids for when they ARE old enough for an account. We recently let Brookelyn get an instagram account (and I blogged about that too) and it's gone just fine so far. I've only had to ask her to delete one comment and she has 1 friend who I won't let follow her, or her follow.. so we keep denying that friend request. Anyways.. InstaFriday, I will be here this Friday! I always love your comments on my blog, because they're not 'haha, that's cute'.. you actually engage. Also, we're going to get that "no-reply blogger" problem of yours fixed! ;)

Anne said...

Anne, I love your decision to share your fb account. You are a very wise and loving mom. How great that you've had so much dialogue about social media. My daughter is 20 and I think she got fb at 14. If she were younger I'd be using your idea. Also, I admire your honesty.


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