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Facebook + Teenagers = Big Brother

by Ilana Angel

February 15, 2010 | 10:51 am

I like Facebook.  It keeps me connected to many people, and has allowed me to reconnect with some I never thought I would see again, due to distance and time.  Not to mention the fact that I am addicted to my farm!

It was a very proud moment when my son invited me to be his Facebook friend.  When his friends started to invite me to be their friends too, I about lost my mind.  I was so happy they trusted me to be a part of their world.

My son has a ton of friends on Facebook, and most of them are kids I don’t know.  They go to his current school, his old school, his USY group, his camp friends, his friends friends.  They spend a lot of time on there.

While I am my son’s Facebook friend, and can see his page, I also have his password.  I go into his account periodically to look around, and make sure everything is cool.  I check messages and postings, by him and the other kids.

There are so many articles and news stories about bullying, and kids simply being mean to each other, it is my obligation to monitor his correspondence to ensure that not only my son, but his friends, are ok.

This weekend, a girl I do not know, sent a disturbing message to all the kids.  She had invited them to join two Facebook groups, both of which were very mean spirited, and focused on banning gay marriage.  The girl is 13 years old.

It makes me very sad because she is young, and I assume the feelings she has on the subject where taught to her by her parents.  I am constantly shocked by people and how they perpetuate hate, when they have the power to show their kids a better way.

I support gay marriage.  I support gay rights, in the same way I support human rights.  There is no difference to me between gay or straight.  We all deserve the same.  That is what I believe, and what I teach my son.

I was not sure what to do.  Do I tell my son to “un-friend” her on Facebook?  Does that not make me intolerant, just like her?  It was the first time that I was torn about having too much information, and wondered if I should not have checked his messages.

In the end, my son handled it.  He and his friends said they thought she was wrong and they ignored her request.  They don’t agree with her and if anything, they think she is an idiot and feel sorry for her, which makes me sad for her.

My son is smart and responsible.  While he knows a ton of people, his core group of friends are really wonderful.  I love them, and equally as important, I trust them, and want to believe that will always be the case.

I don’t want to feel so comfortable and secure in the knowledge that they are great kids, that I get lazy, and miss signs of things I should be seeing.  I am blessed we are close and talk, but I don’t want to be naïve.

We need to trust, but still question. I am blessed that my son is open with me and shares parts of his life that I don’t see.  I am also nervous because he is 14, and will be in high school in the fall.  I imagine the most difficult time is yet to come.

I will keep my eyes and ears open.  I must watch over him so he feels safe and respected, without forcing him to pull away because he feels smothered.  The next few years will require extra prayers and strength.  Made easier I hope, by my keeping the faith.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for JewishJournal.com. KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television....

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