Parents have a lot of questions about Facebook, and they extend beyond “how did my high school ex find me?” So Facebook decided to create a central database of answers. Today the Parents Portal launched globally, in more than 55 languages. This is a part Facebook’s already existing Safety Center, but it’s built specifically for people with kids. Oh, and you don’t even have to be on Facebook to access its insights — but you probably are.
Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Head of Global Safety (and a fellow parent) sat down with Fatherly to talk about everything the Parenting Portal has to offer. It includes resources from 20 partners that focus on video content, expert advice, and more tips than a casino cocktail waitress for you to use when Internet conversations get heated. Davis expanded on 6 of these, and how they’ve changed her approach to parenting online.
The Same Rules Apply Online And Offline
As Davis describes, one of the main goals of the portal is to get parents past the point of not knowing what to about their kids and technology. “Parents need to know that the skills they have offline apply online as well. People connect in different ways not as a result of technology, but the basics of safety remain the same.” So go with your gut and if something doesn’t feel right, assume it’s not just the leftover pizza.
Be A Good Role Model
When her daughter got her first phone, Davis remembers walking past her room and seeing that little light parents of teens know all too well. Concerned about her need to decompress at the end of the day and get a good night sleep, she set a rule that all phones had to be off at 9 PM. The hard part? “To make the rule stick, my phone went on the nightstand at 9. Over time she self-regulated.” If Facebook’s Head of Global Safety can unplug, you and your kid can manage too.
Engage With Them Early
The Facebook platform itself is still only for children 13 and older. And while that may seem like a long way off, Davis recommends starting the conversation earlier than that. After all, they’re probably going to see you or your spouse posting pictures of them on it. (No nudes, please.) “The earlier you start these conversations, the easier it is to have these conversations. It can make it easier when they turn 13 and begin to establish their own identity, and move away from you as parent — you want to start those conversations before they’re there.“ In other words, talk to them about Facebook while they still think you’re cool enough to be on there.
Take Advantage Of Key Moments
There are going to be plenty of moments in your kid’s life where it will be obvious to talk about technology: The first time they get on Facebook. The first time their car parks itself. And the first time they yell at you for posting a bad picture of them. It’s something Davis got in trouble for on at least one occasion. “I posted a picture of her at dinner and her friends immediately messaged her to say that her eyes were closed. So she had me take it down.” The Help Center also offers privacy checkups for these moments. And your medicine cabinet offers the ibuprofen.
Trust Yourself …
Davis admits to making the mistake that most parents make — fearing the technology that you don’t necessarily understand. “I wish I had been more curious early on. Parents should try not to be afraid of technology, but see it as an opportunity to share, engage, and connect with our kids in a different way.” In this sense, the robot overlords are your friends. And so are all the experts and resources they can connect you with.
… But Also Trust Your Kids
Though the Portal connects you with expert advice, you also have a tiny expert in your home that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you don’t understand what your kid is doing, ask them. Then trust them to answer. Not only will you learn what memes are cool (hmm … dubsmash) but more importantly, what your kid needs from you. “Some children really want and need rules, and for them you might want to sit down and set certain boundaries. Other children may want to negotiate with you, and need a contract.” (You can find this all in one place now, thanks to the update.) She just notes that all kids are different, and not even Facebook has figured out an algorithm for that. Yet.