Friended by Mom and Dad on Facebook

Luckily for the children of Facebook users, however, their parents can look at their photos and private information only if they are "friends" on Facebook. Parents may request online friendship with their children, but those who receive these requests don't necessarily have to accept them.

"My mom tried to 'friend' me but I denied her request," said Russell Taylor, a William and Mary sophomore. "I don't want my mom commenting on my pictures. That would be weird."

This requirement that users "friend" each other in order to view each other's information addresses safety issues that have plagued other sites, because users must confirm that the connection with anyone who requests their "Facebook friendship."

Maintaining Privacy

If students don't want to reject their parents' Facebook requests, however, there are other slightly less offensive options that they can choose to protect their privacy.

For instance, Facebook offers users the ability to restrict who sees what on their profiles -- so if someone doesn't want his parents snooping around his pictures, he can limit access to them.

Many students are particularly unsettled by their parents' use of the social networking site because they don't know why their parents would want to use it, other than to spy on or embarrass them.

"I think parents are bored," Taylor said. "My mom doesn't really use it, but the moms who do use it a lot are kind of creepy. They should trust their kids more."

The potential for embarrassment is also a major factor in students' dislike of befriending their parents on Facebook. Once friends, parents can "post" anything on their children's walls, giving rise to potentially embarrassing situations for students who don't want their college friends to be exposed to their "home life."

"My family always posts embarrassing things on my wall," said Gaines. "I don't know if they do it on purpose or if they really want to know if I need new socks or whatever."

'We Have a Right to Use Facebook'

However, parents object to their children's protests that Facebook is only for students.

"Facebook is open to everyone," said Nancy Wright, the parent of two college-aged Facebook users, "and parents are people too. We have a right to use Facebook to socialize and maybe even befriend our kids!"

Some students see no problem with being Facebook "friends" with their parents, and even use the social networking site as a way to communicate with them.

"My mother, my father and all of my aunts and uncles use Facebook, as do a few of my old teachers," said Alyssa Lamontagne, a Columbia University sophomore. "Most of them started on Facebook about a year or two ago when they realized how useful it was for keeping track of family and old friends. I'm friends with all of them and while a few of my peers like to put their families on limited profile [a privacy option used to restrict access to certain aspects of one's profile] or refuse to friend them, I think that my parents and extended family would protest if they couldn't see all of my pictures. If pictures are posted of me that I don't want them to see, I simply de-tag and thus problem solved."

Indeed, in response to the growing number of parents, teachers and employers on Facebook, many students simply make their profiles adult-friendly, making sure that no embarrassing photos or interactions take place for everyone on Facebook to see.

"People shouldn't be putting anything inappropriate on Facebook anyway," Taylor said. Why would you want what you're doing in public? It'll come back to haunt you in some way or another."

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