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Thu, Mar 19, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
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How to use Facebook as parenting tool
by Cathy S. Babao-Guballa

MY CLASSES at Ateneo officially ended last week. Saying goodbye to students, especially if of a small class, isn’t always easy. Thanks to Facebook, the parting becomes easier.

I know this may sound funny, but I had built a Facebook account ahead of my 18-year-old daughter. Now considered to be the most popular social networking site in many countries, Facebook has become the largest player on the global stage.

According to a March 2009 Nielsen report on “Global Faces and Networked Places -- Social Networking’s Global Footprint,” social networking has been the global consumer phenomenon of 2008.

The report says: “Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit a social network or a blogging site, and the sector now accounts for 10 percent of all Internet time.”

That I acquired a Facebook (FB) account earlier than my children is also explained in the report. Although social networking sites were initially very popular among teenagers, Facebook has apparently changed all that.

“The greatest growth for Facebook has come from people aged 35-49 (+24.1 million). Facebook has added almost twice as many 50- to 64-year-old visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under-18-year-old visitors (+7.3 million).”

I once asked a mid-40s friend if her son was on Facebook. She said he wasn’t too keen on it because “it’s filled with parents!” So true.

I find that Facebook has become the playground of the 40-somethings, and the 50-somethings are discovering it, too.

As a parenting tool, it is a nice way to interact with your children -- on a different level they can fully identify with and understand. I’ve asked educator friends to create accounts, not to keep tabs on their students but rather to communicate with them -- and to find out their thoughts.

Facebook status updates are very telling and a great way of knowing one’s current mood or state of mind, something parents can use to their advantage.

Over at the hallowed halls of Stanford University, the course “Facebook for Parents” was launched last month.

Created by BJ Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford and co-editor of “The Psychology of Facebook,” the free, four-part course was immediately filled by parents eager to navigate FB. Fogg has a website --


If you are a newbie to social networking sites and would like to know more about your child’s world -- not to intrude but to get to know him or her in a different light -- I highly suggest you set up an FB account yourself. Fogg outlines five simple steps:

Sign up for Facebook at To “friend” someone on Facebook means connecting to them. Your kids may initially balk at this, but if you have an open and healthy relationship, “friending” them should not be a problem.

Review your kids’ profile pages. Go to their profile pages and review their content. Don’t stop at the “Wall.” Click on the tabs for “Photos” and “Info” to see more.

Some of the pages can be amusing, and you begin to see your child in a different light. You learn more about their interests, what they are “fans” of and how they communicate with their peers.

See who is “friends” with your child. Click on “See All” on the Friends box to see who your children’s contacts are. Seeing who is “friends with whom” is typical FB behavior so don’t feel like you are snooping.

Watch for items about your child in your News Feed. Click on that item and select the “More About” option. This tells FB to show you more about that person.

A word of warning though. On FB, the observation and connecting go both ways. On the one hand, it may be good for your child to see your more “humane” side as she or he sees how you connect with your own contacts.

Be careful though of what you say or post, or you may never hear the end of it at the dinner table. Childhood secrets are often let loose on the wall or in those multitude of “Notes” that crop up every now and then.

The wonderful thing about FB is that for once, there is a playground where children, teeners and their mid-life parents can romp. Play fair. Happy Facebooking!

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