From it's humble beginnings as a means of communication for a select group of college students, Facebook, the social networking website, has taken the internet by storm. Everyone from teens to grandparents are reconnecting with childhood friends and long-distance relatives.

For teenagers, Facebook is a major vehicle for communicating with each other. Status updates, photos, and instant messaging with several hundred "friends" keep many teens with their own laptops busy in their rooms for hours on end. While in some ways it is nice to keep a moody teenager out of our hair, they do need to be taught what is and is not appropriate content to post.

Opening an Account

If your child wants a Facebook account, there are two ways you can monitor it. First, you can tell your teen that she may not have an account unless you have her password. If she balks at this idea because it is the password she uses for other accounts, then she can create a unique password for Facebook.

By having her password, you can now log in to the account at any time and view not only what she is posting, but what her friends are.

If you are fine with not having the password, then your child must let you be their "friend" with access to all posts and photos.

Do not let your child open an account unless they choose either of these two options.

Privacy Settings

In the past, only your Facebook friends could see your profile. A few months ago, that safety feature changed. In order to maintain your teen's privacy, she will have to make all of the settings to "Friends only". If you do not choose that option, all photos, information, and wall posts can be viewed by anyone who is searching for you, as well as the friends of your teen's friends.


Your teen has to know that you are in charge of who can be your child's "friend". For their own safety, no unknown adults are allowed. And if your child knows the adult, you need to question why this person wants access to your child in such a personal way. If your child really wants to add this person to her contact list, then that adult must also be your friend, too.

The same rule applies for "friends" they have never met. Some teens try to make connections with people on other friends lists. Question your teen as to why she would want someone she does not know to have access to her personal information.

Periodically go over your teen's friend list and let them tell you who they are and how they know this person.

Guidelines for Using Facebook

You need to establish firm guidelines as to what your child can post. Teenagers are naïve. They do not realize that anything they write and display can be used against them later in their lives.

As the parent, you need to have all approval of photos uploaded to their homepage. If you find posts with inappropriate language, even if it is in an abbreviated form, it needs to be deleted. The same applies for photos.

Make sure that when your child posts plans with other friends, she is not going to hurt someone else's feelings because they are left out. That is a form of bullying, typically among girls.

Finding Violations

If you find something on your child's Facebook page that you feel is violating the established ground rules, do not scold your child on their wall. Show her the item on her page that needs to be deleted and see that it is followed through.

Consider the first violation a warning. If repeated, a consequence is in order, whether it be a ban from the computer of taking down the account.

Our children live in a totally different world than we did. While some may think these strategies are extreme, consider this: our parents would never have let a room full of strangers into our bedrooms each day for hours on end. While most people are not out to harm us, the internet provides a hidden forum for predators.

Make time to watch what your child is doing online by establishing Facebook internet safety guidelines for your kids.