Family tech expert Robin Raskin points out that parents are using Facebook to check out the friends and activities of their children at college and says, “Give them some space!”
By Robin Raskin
Now that anyone can join Facebook and it’s no longer limited to students, parents are coming out of the closet and using Facebook openly as a tool in their parenting arsenal. They are looking at their kids’ friends, potential roommates, and even entire college classes in order to pre-screen elements they deem desirable.
Recently USA Today reported that parents are rushing to Facebook to check out their kid’s freshman roommates. If they don’t like what they see, some get on the phone with college administrators to request a roommate change on their child’s behalf.
First, why would a parent want to intervene in a grown child’s relationship with his college? It might have been acceptable to call the school when your child was in second grade and intervene on her behalf; not when they’re off to college.
Second, parents are reinforcing the notion that snap judgments about people are OK. The college administrators report that parents are most concerned about seeing Facebook profiles that contain excessive partying photos. They also react to a potential roommate’s sexual orientation, race, or religion (these are often made abundantly clear in the student’s Facebook profiles). And certainly they react when they read or see instances of drug or alcohol use on the potential roommate’s Facebook page.
Parents are not the only ones poring over Facebook profiles. Kids are checking out their new classmates and making their own judgments before they ever set foot on campus. In an article in the Baltimore Sun, the author says that with access to Facebook “any freshmen already will have formed cliques and crushes, traded tips on classes, dissected roommates’ pop-cultural tastes, planned parties. and scoped out likely nemeses.”
So what do you do? For parents: In a word, look but don’t touch. Who wouldn’t be tempted to check out their child’s future roommate? But it should stop at the check out. Unless the profile claims that the student has done time for murder or larceny, whatever happens between the roommate and your child should happen without your intervention.
If you’re a student go ahead and get comfortable with your new world by using Facebook. But please, check your biases and prejudices at the dorm room door. It’s OK to bring your Facebook with you, but not your preconceived notions about a person based on a Facebook profile. College is a time to open your mind, not close it.
Robin Raskin is a columnist on Yahoo Tech and former Editor in Chief of FamilyPC. Her most recent book, A Parents’ Guide to College Life (Random House, 2006) provides parents with practical answers to 180 “must ask” questions.