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June 11, 2007

Busted! (on Facebook)

FacebookUntil now, my social networking world has been limited to LinkedIn, which I primarily use for business (although it was kind of fun a few weeks ago when I sent a notice to my network about an open position at my company and ended up deluged with "haven't heard from you in a while, how the heck are you doing" emails.) But I have 3 teenagers and while I'm not an advocate of spying on them, I figured it might be a good idea to at least have some sort of idea of what they're up to online at MySpace and Facebook.

So I signed up for both.  I haven't really created any content on my pages yet, but I'm there.

You used to have to be affiliated with a school or college to use Facebook, but they recently opened themselves up to anyone with an e-mail address.  About a half-hour after I signed up, my 15 year old son calls.

"What are you doing on Facebook?"

"Ummm...I don't know, I might want to use it for work or something"

That's sort of true, things are moving in all kinds of directions for many of my clients. Social media is a big part of public relations now, and I have to know what I'm talking about if I advise on any MySpace/Facebook strategies.

There was a funny article in the NY Times last week about a similar experience one of my favorite columnists had when she got on Facebook. Although I have to point out, I did not make any attempt to connect to any of my kid's friends.  Like I said, I'm not a believer in spying on my kids, check out what I had to say in this BusinessWeek article on cell-phone tracking last year.

I would however, love him to correct his spelling and grammar, if he'd let me.

My kids know all about being safe online - they're only interested in making connections with friends or acquaintances...they ignore strangers. The media loves to write about online predators, and I know they're out there, but everything I've observed leads me to believe the primary purpose for most teens is to interact with people they already know. My 11 year old knows about the threats and has major online "stranger danger" fears. No MySpace for her, her interactions are limited to the worlds most appropriate for her age group, like Club Penguin.  There was another article in the Times this week about this age-group online, but she's not nearly as immersed as some of the kids in the story.

Back to the teens. Of course they're going to limit what I can see, but by joining I figure it's the equivalent of being the "invisible" driver taking your kids to the movies or other activities, listening in on the conversations in the back seat.

Of course none of this substitutes for real one-on-one, parent to kid talks, but we all know that teens go through stages when the last person they want to talk to is a parent. My parents and I talked a lot through my teen years, but they had NO IDEA what I was really up to. They would have been horrified, which brings up another subject that's probably best left for another post. The "do as I say, not as I did" one.

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