Should My Kids ‘friend’ Their Grandmother?

Dear Mamas,

I have 12-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and both have facebook accounts. They recently received a friend request from my mother-in-law and it freaked them out. They don’t want to hurt her feelings, but they really don’t want her leaving comments on their wall, either (“oh honey, doesn’t that top show a little too much of your tummy?”).

They’re both good kids, and are loving and respectful to her overall, but isn’t this over the line?

Guidance, please!


Dear Cecelia,

We do so enjoy these technology questions! It reminds us just how old we really are. Seriously, both of us have faced this issue with our own brood. Consider yourself lucky that they feel bad about the possibility of hurting Grandma’s feelings and didn’t just respond with a quick “no flippin’ way!”.

Many preteens would hesitate to be facebook friends with their extended family members and see it as a not-so-welcome intrusion into their peer group, not unlike inviting Mom and Dad to the school dance. Your kids are working hard to define appropriate boundaries between them and the adults in their lives, and you can help by supporting the process and offering safe guidelines while helping them earn as much responsibility as they can handle.

Now, for some unsolicited advice (my own kids’ favorite kind). You don’t mention whether you have access to your kids’ facebook pages, but at 12 you really should. Facebook is supposed to be limited to ages 16 and above, which is a joke, I know, but younger kids should be using it with supervision at the very least. I’m assuming you’ve already discussed online safety at length with your twins (here’s a good resource if you haven’t),  but they still need you to provide oversight.

My arrangement with my 16-year-old is that I’m allowed to see her page, but I promise NEVER to write on it no matter what. I’ve also agreed to be circumspect about talking about what I see there, and only raise things that cause me concern about her or another teen’s safety (it hasn’t happened yet). She doesn’t really want to hear what I have to say about whether Carly and Ben should break up, or whatever.

But I digress. Back to Grandma. Have a talk with your guys and decide how best to handle it. Would they like to give her a call (or an email would work, too) and explain that as much as they love her and are proud of how tech-savvy she is, it’s awkward for kids their age to “talk” freely in front of the older generation? They might emphasize how much of what they post is silly inside jokes designed to be shared with their friends that Grandma won’t really get.

Or maybe all of you could have a conversation together about peer groups and privacy. Chances are your kids wouldn’t be welcome guests at the weekly mah jong game — never mind, I take that back.

In any case, encourage everyone to exchange email addresses if they haven’t already, and offer up lots of opportunity for cross-generational closeness. Grandparents can be amazing mentors and loving sounding boards for your guys, and you’ll want to encourage that closeness as much as possible.

Good luck! 

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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2 responses to “Should My Kids ‘friend’ Their Grandmother?”

  1. Jen Green

    Fantastic advice. I know it’s a tricky thing combining the two worlds of family and friends and trying to figure out where the line can be drawn between the two. I think you have some great ideas for bridging the awkward discussion. Thanks for sharing!

  2. bb

    Also it may be helpful to consider the account settings on Facebook. You can always “friend” someone and then edit the settings on that person as to what information they can access on your account. You can choose to have the grandmother on a “limited profile” setting. The grandmother isn’t aware of these settings and she can still be a “friend” without being too obtrusive.

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