Jun 12, 2010

Facebook 101 for Parents of Tweens

We were in the midst of creating an article highlighting Facebook etiquette, for the benefit of parents interacting with their kids and their kid’s friends on Facebook. And while we believe that it’s a topic worth publishing, we realized after speaking with many readers and subscribers, that there are still a fair amount of parents that have managed to avoid the whole Facebook craze! Some even state their lack of knowledge and interest as a source of pride! Others cite technology intimidation as a barrier. So, we decided to first offer a very basic primer on what you need to know and do to get up-to-speed on Facebook! While you may disagree with it’s premise or question it’s value, as the parent of a tween, it’s important to be aware of Facebook’s power and impact. For those of you who are active on Facebook, stay tuned for an upcoming article focused on etiquette!
Brief History of Facebook

Launched in February 2004, “thefacebook” was founded by (then) Harvard Student, Mark Zuckerberg as a social networking tool on campus. The idea quickly spread among students at Harvard, then Stanford and Yale and throughout colleges in the U.S. and Canada. In August 2005, “thefacebook” was officially renamed Facebook and the rest is history in the making!
As a Parent, Why Join Facebook?

If you don’t think your tween is aware of Facebook, think again…with over 250 million active users (and growing exponentially), awareness isn’t an issue! Without a doubt, the vast majority of older tweens (and some younger ones as well, despite the age criteria of needing to be 13 years old) have Facebook accounts. As a parent, it’s hard to debate the importance of knowing where your pre-teen is spending his/her free time. It might help to think of it like this…since you’d most likely want to check out a destination where your tween was going, the same should hold true for the internet. As a bit of a bonus, when using Facebook, connecting with current or past friends from yesteryear can be a trip down memory lane!
What Does Facebook Offer?

The updated, current version of Facebook offers a secure means to interact and connect with friends, relatives and people with similar interests. In order for someone to view your profile, except for the information you choose to share with the overall community, they need to be approved by you; they need you to friendthem. Once you’re friends, you can regularly view the information your friendspost as well as the profile they created about themselves; and they can see your profile and postings as well. You can reach out to find others. Or, you can wait for others to find you.

Not only is Facebook a social network that enables you to share insights and information with friends in a mass way, you can send a private message to afriend. Another outstanding feature is the ability to share photographs through a very simple uploading process. Note: be careful about “tagging” photos (i.e., don’t identify people in photos, especially your children by name). While security is of paramount importance and Facebook pride’s it’s organization on trust and integrity, since there’s little value in doing so, it’s best to avoid “tagging” altogether.

 

Facebook Security

While any public domain is hard-pressed to completely avoid the potential for hacking, security is taken very seriously by Facebook. In fact, there’s a “Chief Privacy Officer” whose team is responsible for staying ahead of the curve in keeping your private information private! And, unlike the first incarnation of Facebook where most everything that you published was for general consumption, now there are plenty of limitations that you can place on your profile. Facebook’s privacy settings allow you filter what information from your profile can be seen when someone searches for you. You can configure your settings so prospective friends can see only your name and photo, or you can choose to include other information, like a list of your current friends. And, you can control what kind of information your friends have access to. While you may want some details to be viewable by all of your friends, you have the option to designate certain aspects of your page (your photos, for example) as viewable by only certain friends or family members. The choice is yours and the options for customizing your page based on privacy settings are plentiful.

 

Sign Up On Facebook

While getting started on Facebook can seem daunting to those unfamiliar with the site and its capabilities, it’s very easy to get started. Once you have your account and profile set up, the rest is fairly straightforward. Exploring Facebook, once signed in, is all you need to do to gain a level of comfort.

1. Go to the Facebook.com website and complete the basic information required to register (e.g., name, email address, gender, password, etc.).

2. Add other personal information to make your account robust and representative of you (paying close attention to what information you want others to have access to).

3. Add a current picture. Make it one you like, since you’ll see it every time you post (as will others)!
Begin Creating Your Network of Friends

Once you explore a little, you’ll find that the site is user friendly and easy to navigate. You can begin to find friends with a search focused on a geographic area, high school, college, hometown or other affiliation. And once you findfriends, you can take a look at their friends to find other past contacts. You may be surprised whom you encounter. While you’re making effort to find friends and build your network, others will likely be simultaneously reaching out to add you to their network. You will periodically receive invitations from others to become theirfriend. When you accept a friend invitation, you are added to your friend’snetwork and they are added to yours.
Facebook Jargon

Friend – someone you’ve invited into your network or whose invitation you accepted to connect with.

Wall – a virtual bulletin board where friends can post comments for you (and others) to see. The postings usually come in the form of quips about your recent postings!)

Messages – between you and a designated friend (like email, only from your Facebook account).

What’s On Your Mind/Share – a text box (with the option of attachments) to create postings informing friends of what you’re doing (or have recently done), as well as thoughts you want to share.

Poke – a silly gesture that let’s the person know that you noticed something on their page or are teasing them.

News Feed – the stream of friend postings that show up on your page.

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