http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/08/22/the-y-files-parents-get-out-of-my-facebook


Danville Express

Living - August 22, 2008

The Y Files: Parents: Get out of my Face(book)

by Maria Shen

A couple of years ago, MySpace was all the rage. The social networking Web site got so hot that almost wherever you turned, the presence was felt - in the news, on TV, in pop references, in movie previews. Personally, I didn't have a MySpace, but that only meant my friends constantly bugged me about getting one.

I did feel a little left out. After all, all the drama was played out on MySpace. New pictures and comments were uploaded incessantly. While hanging out, my friends would go on the computer and check for updates (that was a bit annoying). I received second-hand news while they experienced it all virtually.

Users and mainstream media quickly found faults with the site - suicides, missing teens, Web abuse. It seemed like MySpace was more trouble than it was worth. That was when we witnessed the rise of Facebook, a social networking Web site that was basically a more organized version of MySpace.

Perhaps because I'd been left in the dust during the MySpace craze, I quickly jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. The Web site didn't disappoint. There are constant news feeds. Relationship statuses are kept under careful scrutiny - are my friends single, in a relationship, or "it's complicated"? Like someone? I could send them a Poke. Or even SuperPoke them if I'm feeling wild.

Originally meant for college students, Facebook has become an overall teen phenomenon. A Web site like this didn't keep under the radar for long. It's been garnering a lot of attention - especially parental attention.

Parents are now joining Facebook to catch up with their children. The perks? Parents can see the latest pictures posted by their kids and their friends. I can speak from firsthand experience when I say that, usually, the poor parents don't get to see half the pictures their kids are taking. We're at such an age when, every time friends hang out, everyone has a camera in his or her bag. And, if not a camera, then an iPhone. And if not that, then at least a cell phone with a camera on it. Literally, hundreds of pictures are taken each week.

Unlike the good ol' days, when people communicated through e-mail, the new generation has text messaging, Facebook, and a plethora of communication portals at its disposal. The hit CW show, Gossip Girl, is a teen drama built on the foundation of text messaging and Internet. "Gossip girl," a mysterious character who narrates the TV show through text messages and her blog, plays a central role. Although the drama is grossly exaggerated, Gossip Girl is a good indicator of current communication trends.

The point is, it's difficult for a parent to catch up on what's happening nowadays. News travels and develops so fast that it's easy to parents to be out of the loop and stay there. And, frankly, "out of the loop" is exactly where most teens like their parents to be. Not that most of us have anything to hide. We just feel better with some privacy.

It's ironic that we're so willing to splay our life out on the Internet but not half as willing to share it with our parents. Most teens are leary when they see their moms or dads trying to "friend" them on Facebook. Some set their profiles to "limited." Like the word implies, parents would only be able to view a small window into their Facebook lives.

Facebook makes it harder for parents to keep tabs on (or stalk) their children, since fabricating an identity is more difficult to pull off. When making a profile, there's a lot of school and network information to be filled out. And, unlike MySpace users, Facebookers are much less likely to "friend" someone they don't recognize. The feature that counts the number of mutual friends between users also makes it easier for Facebookers to determine whether the person trying to "friend" them is really a friend or a fraud.

That's why when it comes to finding their children on Facebook, most parents go with their real identities. Some teenagers will reject the overture of virtual friendship altogether. Others will cautiously accept the friendship.

But whatever the case, teenagers everywhere feel a bit uneasy.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School who loves ice cream on sunny days, books on rainy ones, and music for all those in between. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.

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