Facebook for Parents

FBI recently gave a presentation to middle school parents about Facebook.  The goal of the evening was to get parents on Facebook to show them how to sign up, how to set privacy settings, how it works, and why someone would use it.  The ultimate goal of the evening was to give parents the tools necessary to have informed discussions with their children about Facebook.  The night was a success.  I had about 20 parents attend and, though some parents could not get on (because of the confirmation email problem), they all engaged in conversation around middle schoolers and Facebook.  Out of the 20, only 2 parents had existing Facebook accounts – and the range of the other parents varied from no interest in online social networking, to conservative Internet use, to full embrace of the Internet.

One of the issues that came up was, what is the appropriate age for kids to join Facebook?  There seems to be plenty of sixth graders who are on Facebook right now even though the TOS requires kids to be 13 years old.  I like to adhere to the TOS as a good model especially for students who are often tempted to misrepresent themselves online.  Though I am no expert on the middle school aged brain, I tend to think 11 and 12 year-olds are too young to fully understand the complexities of online socializing; they have a hard enough time face-to-face. To me, 13 seems young enough.

The other issue that came up was, should you friend your child?  People seem to be split on this one.  I think kids need their own place to socialize.  I equate friending them with sitting in the room with a bunch of kids – the dynamic of the situation changes. Now that we are teaching kids how to set their security settings and using groups to filter news, parents may not be able to see as much as they want to see. I don’t think parents should get a Facebook account to spy on their kids; I think parents should get accounts to understand the medium and they just might find it useful in their lives.

There is a lot more to talk about and I am excited that our Middle School Director has decided to make technology a “theme” for next year for parents, faculty, and students.  We will be working together with our school psychologist to really take a look at technology and how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into a middle school brain.  Parents already seem more at ease now that they know we are talking about technology and that we have already begun to plan for workshops and parent evenings next year.  We have started a Facebook page for our parents and we encourage parents to follow us on Twitter.  This is just the beginning of a conversation that I hope will enrich all who take part in it.  When it comes to social networking and technology, we need to educate our students (and our faculty) as well as our parents in order to have full success.

I have embedded the slideshow I used with parents below – please take what you need from it.

5 thoughts on “Facebook for Parents

  1. Ann Oro

    Thank you for leaving a link to this post on Twitter. I’ve been thinking about doing something like this at school. You had a nice turnout with 20 parents. I’m going to use your slides as the basis for mine when I do a program like this. How much time did you set aside? How did you publicize the event? We have two sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes. There are about 120 families x two parents per family.

  2. plennig Post author

    Hi Ann – Please use my slides as you like. I can send the original if you’d like. Our middle school sounds about the same size as yours. We publicized the evening in our weekly e-newsletter and on the website. We had several high school parents requesting to attend but we limited it to middle school (with promises that we’d do a similar night in the high school). We went from 7-8:30 pm (but it was more like 9 before we finished) and everyone had a laptop. I think the consensus was that we should meet again without the technology and talk about the parenting issues – so that may be an upcoming evening (or we may save it until next fall). I think parents were really eager to talk and enjoyed the forum for it. Let me know if you have other questions and good luck with your event.

  3. Chris Bell

    I stumbled on this via your twitter bio. This is something I have wanted to do fo r parents, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet so now I’m feeling a bit more motivated. I would consider 20 parents a success these days since everyone is overloaded and busy.

    With respect to your school fan page, have you run into any problems with that yet? I wanted to set one up for our school, but that was voted down by my peers. Just wondering if there have been any incidents or anything…

    Also-thanks for sharing your presentation 🙂

  4. plennig Post author

    Thanks for you comment, Chris. Our Facebook page is still very new so no incidents yet. We had a buy in from both our Parents Association and Development Office. We felt is was the right thing to do because for two reasons: the parents we asking for a way to connect with other parents; and parents were beginning to join our Alumni page on Facebook and we felt the need to give them their own place. So far so good. I think parents have been very responsive to the moves we have made recently to bring this discussion into the forefront. Parents (and faculty) were hesitant at first but I think we have been able to make them more comfortable with it by showing them that it is a valuable tool and not something to be afraid of.

    Good luck,


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