Facebook: No. 1 tool for parenting? Maybe. Use wisely.

In fact, “the No. 1 tool in our lifetimes for parenting,” according to B.J. Fogg, who runs Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab and teaches about Facebook with his sister, Linda Phillips, parent of 8, in a free, noncredit class. Their reasoning: “Because it enables parents to ask about specifics.” Absolutely. That’s a great point. But, please, parents, think this monitoring option through carefully. Every child’s different – at some point in the spectrum of age, maturity, and trust levels – and parental questions and monitoring need to be calibrated to those levels. Why? If we go too far and really hover – try to friend all their friends and maybe embarrass them (not that Fogg and Phillips are suggesting this) – we risk losing their willingness to engage with us and communicate. That, I contend, is, always has been, and always will be the No. 1 tool for parenting. If kids stop wanting to communicate and go into stealth mode online, which is very easy for them to do, we’re even farther out of the equation, the one in which they use us as their chosen backup. For a teen’s view on this, see Aseem Mehta’s blog post here. Also don’t miss “Parental Faux Pas on Facebook,” by author and blogger Sharon Cindrich. Meanwhile, Lisa Belkin, the New York Times’s “Motherlode” blogger seems to have declared the end (or at least rapid decline) of helicopter parenting in “Let the Kid Be.” [Thanks to Susan Fassberg in California for pointing out the Stanford Alumni magazine article.]

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