There are a ton of issues parents have to worry about surrounding teens on Facebook — privacy issues, cyberbullying, drunken photos that mean he can kiss that senate career goodbye. Do you friend or don't you friend? If you friend them, you can keep an eye on them, but then they'll alter what they do or say, so you're not really getting any good information.
My teen Facebook philosophy is only to accept friend requests — never make them. That way, I'm not pushing myself on them. And I've got quite a few of Elijah's friends as FB friends. (Hint: it helps if you post lots of photos from their events, say...birthday parties, or rugby matches. Then they send you friend requests so they can tag themselves in your photos.) Once you get a handful of them as friends, you can pretty much keep up with the conversation without ever having to friend your own kid.
The question then becomes: What do you do when you see something disturbing?
If I see photos of kids I know drinking or using drugs, I'm going to call the parents and let them know. If I were to see something more serious — say, a threat against a teacher or another student — I would alert the school. These sorts of things have led to too many teen deaths to let them go ignored. But a couple times I've seen something that really bothers me that I have no idea how to address: racial slurs.
My family knows better than to ever use that kind of language, although I still fight the "That's so gay" battle and I get the feeling Elijah probably uses the f-word slur when he's not around me. There is one friend in the group who I've heard make some very borderline racist comments. Nothing I can actually call him out on though. Yet I've seen the n-word in several of their FB interactions, often used as some kind of inside joke.
And these are good kids. They really are. But we live in the south — hell, we live in the city where Martin Luther King was gunned down — and I don't know what they hear or learn at home. I feel like all I can do is make a statement if that sort of hatred is spewed around me. But isn't that kind of taking the easy way out? That's not really standing up for what I believe.
The thing that's really gnawing at me, too (I'm not sure what this says about me) is that these kids have a ton of black classmates as Facebook friends! How do they feel when they see that? And I don't mean that the slurs would be okay if they weren't said around African-Americans. I just don't get the disconnect between using that kind of language when "some of your best friends are black."
So what should I do? Leave a comment? Send a private message? Mind my own business? Talk to my son and make sure he gets where I stand on the issue? What's appropriate? What's not? What would you do?