I've always been leery of social networking when it comes to children. I never thought I'd be one of those moms who allowed her children on Facebook before the posted age of thirteen. However, a couple of years ago, I gave in and created a Facebook account for my oldest. Not for the reason she was begging, which was all her friends were getting one so they could remember each other as they all got separated into different middle schools, but because I wanted her to get to know our family up North. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with those you love.
We discussed the fact that she couldn't accept any friend requests without my permission, and I had to be one of those friends. She wasn't allowed to take any quizzes or play any games that I didn't approve of. Her privacy settings were set at the highest priority. I believed I'd thought of everything to keep her safe.
Her younger sister is now of the same age with her own page and all the same rules apply. Things have gone reasonably well, but she's more of a free spirit. I have to monitor her much more closely and have had to delete a friend or two on occasion.
The problem I've been eluding to happened last week when she declined a young man's request to "go out" with her. He instant messaged her through Facebook, and she gave him her standard reply. "Mom says I'm too young to go out with anyone."
He wasn't happy with this answer, and tried to persuade her. While they were chatting, his profile picture became her picture. She was "creeped out" when he did this. At first she thought she hit a wrong button and changed her own picture. Before she could tell him to delete it, he disappeared from her screen. He unfriended her in the middle of their chat because she'd finally had to outright tell him, "No."
She waited until bedtime to tell me about the situation. She'd had enough time to think, and now she was scared. She didn't want to go to school because she said he was really upset. I told her she had nothing to worry about. His feelings were probably a little hurt. However, it didn't sit well with me that he'd taken he picture as his own either.
I know Facebook issues aren't technically a school related problem, but the fact that she was fearful to go to school was. The problem was quietly handled, and the young man apologized and deleted the pictures. I truly believe he didn't realize how inappropriate his action of using her picture for his own would be, or how it would make her feel. My daughter is now back to herself since the apology but a little more cautious.
I am now reconsidering their Facebook accounts, but would that be too drastic a measure? There needs to be more education out there for our children in regards to social networking and the ramifications. Even as involved as I am in my children's online life, I've recently learned I haven't thought of everything.