Kids in my Facebook

2010-05-14 00:00

I GET a little message in my Facebook inbox: ‘Hi Karin, it’s Nick. I’m on Facebook.’

Nick is 10. I have known Nick since he was three.

I don’t know what the response should be. “Yippee!” is not how I feel.

My son’s best friend wants to be my friend on Facebook. This means so many things that my brain grinds to a halt and I log out having done nothing at all, not even politely acknowledged the message. Which I realise is often an appropriate response too. But here my inaction was the result of pure confusion about what to do next.

I don’t want to be friends with my son’s friends on Facebook. That is clear enough for me.

But if they’re asking me to be their Facebook friends, then it’s what 10-year-olds are doing now and my son will shortly ask me if he can Facebook and, um, well ... I don’t know.

It is inevitable, I suppose. But what are the rules and boundaries supposed to be?

I understand that the best way to monitor online Facebook activity is to be my son’s friend on Facebook. But I don’t want to be that either.

Facebook is for friends, not family.

Facebook — for all its in-your-face-publicness (if you’ll excuse the neologism) — is not a place I want to share with my nearest and dearest. Strange that. Everyone else has their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers-in-law and grannies and children as friends, but I don’t want to share with them there.

I want Facebook mostly for connecting with my writer friends, actually. They have the funniest status updates. It feels a bit like a virtual office on the homepage.

This is not everyone’s cup of tea on Facebook, but it is mine. I can keep up with Lindiwe in Boston and see what Babusi’s cooking up. I want to know when Leonie is staring at the wall. Or when Peter’s baking a cake instead of studying. I don’t know why. But I do. I’m not sure that they care very much when I’ve klapped a deadline in the nick of time, or am spending the morning in my pyjamas. But they’re going to know it.

Facebook is my water cooler. My canteen. My coffee shop. The conversation is a super mix of ribald, poignant, inane, intelligent, outrageous, funny and stupid. It’s my place for connecting with colleagues and friends who are mostly independent workers sitting in their small offices around the continent (and other continents) or just down the road, pottering away at making ends meet, living life creatively, loving disastrously.

This is my adult world.

And I don’t want to be my children’s friend or my children’s friends’ friend there.

But I think my communal office space is about to be invaded by 10-year-olds. What should I do, to preserve both my “private” (ahem) work space, and my children’s safety online?

I sense a sacrifice approaching.

I don’t want to be my children’s friend on Facebook, says this mom.

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