How many Facebook friends do you have? Fifty? One hundred? One thousand? The average number of friends for a Facebook user is 141.5. Who are all these people? They are your childhood friends, your schoolmates, your cousins. But are any of them your parents?
About one in three mothers are friends with their children on Facebook. Keeping in mind that there are over 1 billion Facebook users in total, this means that there are an awful lot of moms watching their kids' News Feeds. And keeping in mind that a lot of kids might not want their parents snooping around their recent status updates and photos, this also means a lot of arguments about why a son or daughter ignored a mom or dad's friend request.
"We actually got into some pretty big fights over this," said Josh Knoller, a 29-year-old professional living in New York. "I love my mom, but I was a little worried about what she might post in front of my friends."
Knoller eventually gave up and agreed to friend his mother — but only on the condition that if she makes an embarrassing comment, he can delete it.
According to Kelly McBride, a professor of communications at Philadelphia's LaSalle University, mothers use social networking for the same reason we all use it: to keep in touch with the people we care about. In this regard, parents and children connecting on Facebook can be seen as a way to keep family relationships strong.
However, parents might also want to use the website to check on their children's behavior: Who are their friends? Who are they dating? Are they cutting class? Can you imagine your mom or dad browsing your Facebook feed and growling disapprovingly at your comments? In a lot of cases, users who are worried about their parents being busybodies will try to hide things.
"They may be willing to friend their mother, but when they do, they take down the stuff they don't want parents to see," said McBride. Indeed, according to McBride, one classic solution among teenagers is keeping their Facebook pages innocent while turning to other social media like Twitter to post the stuff they don't want their parents to see.
We all want some privacy from our parents, especially on the Internet. The question is how to do it politely. Our suggestion is being more open with your parents in everyday situations. If you are honest with them in the real world, maybe they will not be too worried about what you're doing in the virtual one.