By Elizabeth Bernstein
David Rivera recently had someone “unfriend” him on Facebook: His own child.
For months, Dr. Rivera, an obstetrician in Lombard, Ill., had been exasperated that his 25-year-old son, Nate, often complained he was broke and asked for money, yet posted photos of himself on Facebook taken at bars, restaurants, movies and concerts.
Dr. Rivera says he tried to talk to his son, a senior in college, about his spending habits, but his son refused to listen. Frustrated, he finally wrote on his son’s Facebook wall: “I can see what you are blowing your money on, so don’t come whining to me about money.”
“I think they figure that their friends are watching but we’re not, because they think we are old and decrepit and we barely know how to turn the computer on,” says Dr. Rivera, 54-years-old, of being a parent.
In the new era of helicopter parenting, more and more parents and kids are meeting up, and clashing, on Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking sites.
Nate Rivera, who lives in Chicago, says he unfriended his father for several reasons, including his comment about money and other “snide” remarks. “It was mildly pestering,” he says. “I thought, ‘Do I need this?’ ”
In my last column, I wrote about how our behavior on Facebook can harm our real-world relationships. That article prompted a great deal of response, including a number of letters from parents who wrote about how social-networking sites and texting have become a powerful means to stay connected to—and to spy on—their teenagers and young-adult children. As one father put it: “It’s so much easier to keep track of what they eat and when they pick their nose this way.”
Many kids dread getting a friend request from Mom or Dad. There’s even a Web site, www.myparentsjoinedfacebook.com, where people post screen views of their parents’ most embarrassing posts. Recently, these included one mother telling her daughter to stop drinking sodas because she had cavities, another mother requesting “intervention should she ever wear twill, tapered-leg, buttless mom jeans,” and the results of one stepfather’s “Which sex position fits you best?” quiz.
“Mom, it’s like my friends and I are standing around having a conversation and you interrupt and say, ‘Hi, guys! What are you doing?’ ” says Andrew Doerfler, a 17-year-old high school senior in West Grove, Penn.
Andrew has a solution for embarrassing mom posts, like the amusement she expressed after he linked to a video of the rock star Bret Michaels getting hit in the head by a prop at the Tony Awards: He deletes them immediately. (His mom, Megan Reese, a 40-year-old insurance-industry recruiting manager, says she’s not trying to annoy her son, but just trying to stay aware of what’s going on in his life.)
Parents of teens are used to being snubbed, of course, but it’s getting harder for kids to ignore mom and dad when they have access to their children’s entire virtual social life.