With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I decided to look at what it’s like to be a mum in the age of Facebook…
With the launch of our lovely new Interflora Facebook page, I set out to speak to parents and children to find out the biggest mistakes a mum can make online.
Gone are the days when the only contact a mother had with her child’s friends involved saying ‘yes, hang on’ before passing the phone over. Now, with the explosion in social networking, mothers and their children are exposed to all sorts of startling information about each other.
As William Higham – social trends consultant and author of ‘The Next Big Thing: Spotting & Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit’ – points out it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to.
“Any parent who’s been the recipient of abuse after walking into their child’s room uninvited will know how important a child’s privacy is. How annoyed must today’s adolescents be?
“Just when they thought they’d found in Facebook a safe place to hide from their parents’ enquiring eyes, they discover their parents are on there too! Yes, teens beware – adults are taking over Facebook. Today 40% of all Facebook users are 35 or over. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook today is 40- and 50-somethings: almost half of them now have an active profile.
“It’s understandable, though. Parental and work duties mean today’s parents are a time poor lot who don’t get the chance to go out as much as they used to – so Facebook is often their only way of keeping in touch with friends.”
Plus, this isn’t a standard ‘oldie’ generation. Today’s 40-60s grew up in the 1960s, ’70s or early ’80s – the flowering of Youth culture – and they’re determined not to end up in slippers or on stairlifts.
William Higham adds: “If Facebook is ‘just for kids’ that doesn’t rule them out – they’ll happily admit to being big kids anyway. And, given that most of their Facebook time today is spent talking to old school or college friends about the latest TV shows or bands – or their exploits in the local pub the night before – well, what a great way to relive their youth!”
If you are tempted on to social networking sites, don’t think you can behave any way you wish. There are rules and your child won’t thank you if you don’t abide by them.
Here’s our top ten Facebook faux pas to avoid…
Don’t stalk your child
It’s fine to show an interest in what your son or daughter is up to online. In fact, with younger children it’s really important for their safety. But if you can repeat, verbatim, a wall exchange they’ve had with their best friend, who you know to be a safe contact, then you’re taking things too far. It is, of course, fine to make the odd comment on your child’s Facebook page but commenting on their every post is a seriously bad move. Its also really bad to use pet names – imagine the horror of the poor child who began adding his brand new classmates as friends, only to have his mother post a message on his wall telling him that it wasn’t the best way to make friends, that they would think him odd and then signing off by calling him sweetboy. It must have taken him weeks to live it down.
Never tell off your children on their wall
I’ve lost count of the number of mothers who rant at their children online for all sorts of misdemeanours – from not doing homework to coming in late. Keep it private – their friends don’t need to know that they’ve left the bathroom in a state or have run up a huge phone bill.
I was recently asked to join a Facebook group called ‘If 1,000 people join Holly’s mum might unground her this weekend’. Sadly Holly’s mum didn’t see the funny side and very publicly banned her from Facebook as well.
Don’t flirt with your children’s friends
Yes, we’ve all heard it’s cool to be a cougar, but flirting with your kids’ friends is just so wrong.
Don’t post embarrassing pictures of yourself
No child anywhere on earth wants to see their mother doing anything shaming. More than that, they don’t want their friends to see it either. If they had their way, your children would have you in the kitchen chained to the cooker and wearing a dress that wouldn’t be out of place on a nun. So, pictures of you in a sexy slashed-to-the-thigh number, out clubbing or, heaven forbid, drunk are a real no-no.
Don’t post embarrassing pics of your kids
You may think your daughter looked adorable in the bath with the boy next door when she was six, but you can be damn sure she won’t be pleased if you decide to share this image with your Facebook friends. On that note, the boy concerned will probably be pretty cross too.
Don’t add your child’s friends
If one of your child’s friends adds you as a friend, you should check with your son or daughter if it’s OK to accept them. You must never, under any circumstances, make the first approach, though – it can cause nothing but embarrassment for all concerned.
Don’t blurt your secrets
We’ve all seen all manner of inappropriate status updates, but let me tell you this. Your child honestly believes you have only been intimate with their father the number of times that correspond with the children you have. Please don’t disabuse them of this fact through any chat, updates or wall posts.
Don’t send private mail to your kids friends
You may be worried about your child and want to canvas opinion from their friends, but this isn’t the way to go about it. One poor boy was ritually humiliated when his mother sent a note to his ex-girlfriend telling her how upset he was that they had broken up. Sadly, you can imagine the rest – she forwarded it to some friends, who forwarded it again and suddenly the whole school knew he’d been crying in his bedroom for weeks.
Don’t try to be ‘down with the kidz’
If your children are old enough to be on Facebook, then sadly you’re way past the window that allows them to think of you as cool. Text speak and acronyms are not for you. You’ll simply come across like the rather sad dad on Modern Family, who truly believes WTF stands for ‘Why the Face?’
Don’t send your child cute hatching bunnies or say I love you
You know you love your child and they know it too, but they’d rather you didn’t tell their 482 friends. Frankly, the most loving thing you can do online is be seen and not heard. That way your child can be really proud of you.
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