Posted by: mollyrossiter | February 17, 2009

Privacy vs. parenting

I sometimes have a hard time drawing a line of distinction between my role as a parent and my role as a journalist.

As a parent, I want to know what’s on my kids’ Facebook profiles, who they’re chatting with and what they’re doing. I want my kids to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter so I have a better grasp of what’s going on.

As a parent who has seen first-hand the problems cyber bullying can cause, I would think it’s OK, to some degree, for there to be filters on the profiles of minors or students.

Then the journalist kicks in. What about free speech? Don’t we all have the inalienable right to say what we want, opine about what we want and speak the way we want to?


The first time I perused my daughter’s Facebook profile and saw the postings on her wall, I felt as though I were invading her privacy, reading her virtual diary, if you will. “These are her conversations with her friends, what am I doing here?”

Then I realized that if I could see them, so could anyone else she opened her profile to: her friends, her friends’ parents, her teachers, her youth leader, her cousins. I kept reading.

What alarmed me were some of the things her Facebook “friends” — many of whom are just people she recognizes but doesn’t actually know from school — had on their profiles. Photos in sensual poses. Mock drug activity. Swearing, flirting, insulting.

What are these kids thinking? Don’t they know what they’re putting out there, and the ramifications these things can pose?

The answer is no, they don’t. That’s our job as parents — to point out the problems, to suggest the possibilities. To let them know that prospective employers may see those photos or read those comments.

Just as our kids are entering the “brave new world” of adolescent social media, so are we blazing the trails in parenting that generation. One way to make it work is to get on the Internet and do what they’re doing. Set up a Facebook profile. Twitter. Be where they are and know what they’re talking about.

It’s a great first step.



  1. I recently restarted my college career. I attended a meeting in the Decker Auditorium at Iowa Central where the speaker started out by introducing himself and explaining what he does (a lawyer, helps college people: students, teachers, staff, with legal problems). Then he showed dozens of pictures of people drinking and doing drugs. The faces were blurred out, but it was obvious what was going on.

    Then he said that all of those pictures came from the Facebook and MySpace profiles of people who identified themselves as Iowa Central students and were underage. It was shocking to me, but I think a lot of the traditional students were more blase about it.

  2. I know what you feel. I have an 8 year younger sister that i have to take care of and she spend lots of time on the Internet. I don’t know who’s talking with, where has listed privet information and much more.

  3. Molly:

    Great post. You summed it up well in your last paragraph. Social media is a tool, that, when used properly, can be a great educator, but when it is used wrong, can lead to some big problems.

  4. You’re motives as a parent is truly revered. I am actually a 21-year-old male that has little to zip experience with being a parent, but I can understand and sympathize with your worries.

    I think Facebook is beginning to develop into a culture, if not so already. Cultures are hard to break, and hard to change their ethics. I think there is little you can do but advise your daughter along this path of Facebook, which you probably are already doing.

    If she is comfortable to tell you anything, which she probably is, you will no longer need to shadow her on Facebook/Twitter. Your conscious will be at ease, and so will her’s. I doubt you will have any difficulty with this at all.

    Hm, you could even relate your reaction to what you saw on her Facebook profile as a similar reaction to ‘culture shock’. Interesting.

    Anyway, keep up the good posts. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments on this post – my how things have expanded since I first wrote it!

      I wanted to let you know, too, that The Back Pew has moved as The Gazette redesigned its Web site. You can now find it, and all the current posts, at


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