Ask Aviva: Mom opposes Facebook


Dear Aviva,
My daughter just returned from sleep-away camp and B”H she had a fantastic time. Of course, she wants to keep in touch with all her new friends who live in various cities across America and even in Israel. However, she says all her friends keep in touch via Facebook rather than email.
My husband and I have not been allowing our daughter to have a Facebook account because of the many drawbacks of social networking, such as wasting time, addiction, and living in an online vs. offline world. But now we feel that we might be hindering our daughter’s social life by prohibiting Facebook. What are your thoughts?

-Fearful of Facebook

Dear Fearful of Facebook,
First, I am happy to hear that you understand your daughter’s social life is important. Second, I am happier to hear that you are putting her overall well-being ahead of her social life.
Yes, it’s true that Facebook affords for much broader socializing with her camp buddies. And yes, it’s very true that there are major drawbacks and dangers, such as the ones that you mentioned. There are also some dangers that were not mentioned, such as the potential for online predators to reach out to her, G-d forbid, as well as online bullying and exposure to inappropriate material that may be posted by friends or friends of friends.
I don’t want to tell you what to do—I boss around enough people, such as my husband and my dad. But I will help lay out some options for you so that you can decide what is best for your happy camper.
One option is to put your foot down and not allow her to have a Facebook account. She will tell you, “I am the only kid from my bunk who isn’t on Facebook! You’re ruining my life!” Fret not, “life” means “evening” and “only kid” means “one of five.” I’m sure that Facebook was all abuzz before school started, but now that the buses are running (Thank G-d!), kids are not sitting on Facebook all day, so there is not as much that she is missing. If she has email, she can still be very social. It’s not as cool, but she can have a mass email list with her friends, and they can all read each other’s comments by clicking “Reply All.” I know, not at all as cool, but practically speaking, she can totally keep up with her buddies.
Another option is for you to get your own Facebook account and let her use it for her socializing. This is uber not cool, but it wards off any potential predators, inappropriate conduct by friends (but not friends of friends), and allows for total transparency. And, if you want her to really hate you, put your most loser-like pic up for your profile picture. But don’t blame it on me.
Or, you can just make sure that you have the password to her own account, but that would be more of a retroactive surveillance. Not as potent as a profile picture of a mom spoiling the party.
Either way, limits are key. Limit the time that she is on (“After you study for your quiz” and “No more than 20 minutes a day”) A filter can limit how long she is on. But use your own timer every now and then just to make sure that your tech-savvy daughter didn’t take the liberty of recalibrating the filter.
Make sure that the computer is in a public area where parents can loom over shoulders. (POS stands for the oft-typed “Parent Over Shoulder,” so look out for that ominous acronym.) But don’t assume that this is enough. There’s some great software out there to help you spy, I mean, parent. E-blaster is one such program that will email you everything that is typed from the computer. This works as long as that computer is the only internet connection that she has access to. Regarding your concern about her online life overwhelming her offline life, just make sure that her offline life exists and flourishes.
Remember, keeping up real face-time with her wards off any Facebook-foils. Gtg, ttyl!


Aviva Rizel is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice that can be reached at 347-292-8482 or