Is Anyone Writing the New Guide to Parenting?

It started with a friend request on Facebook from Jai (name changed), who I couldn’t identify because he had not uploaded a photograph. Out of curiosity, I asked my wife, whether she knew any Jay who might want to be an FB friend and she told me that she had received a similar request from him, and had figured out that this was Jai, a friend of our 9-year old kids, who stays in a neighboring building. She had immediately ignored his request. I sat on this for a day, not sure what to do, when Jay turned up at our doorstep and reminded me of the friend request he had sent. When I next logged on, I promptly clicked ‘Ignore’.
Intuitively, this felt like the right thing to do. Apart from the fact that FB rules, which incidentally are commonly flouted, do not allow anyone under 13 to register, neither of my nine-year olds is on FB and I was extremely uncomfortable giving access to a 10-year old friend of theirs, to some bits of my private life, which though not quite as interesting as those of many others, are definitely up there on display for my ‘friends’. In real-life, I would have never allowed this kind of access to most people, so why should things be any different on FB?
Though I try and deal with my friends list the way I would handle my friends in real-life, things do get complicated when I receive and accept friend requests from people I don’t really know and have to then rely entirely upon what they put up on FB, to form opinons about them, which might turn out to be entirely wrong, if I were to ever land up meeting them face-to-face.
Kids are an entirely different ball-game! In the early days of FB, when it was first populated by youngsters, many parents got onto it, primarily to monitor the activities of their children. Today, people in their 30s and 40s are the biggest growth segments for FB and in many cases, it is now the children who probably want to be friends with their parents. The day after I ignored Jay’s request, I friended a professional colleague of mine and within an hour or so, I received a friend request from his young teen son, who I don’t know at all. I find these requests very difficult to deal with.
When I put up Jay’s issue in front of all my friends on FB, the views expressed were all over the place. Some friends who are in the same age-group as me, were quite clear that 10-year olds should not be friended and in fact should not be on FB in the first place. Others took a much broader, liberal, view, saying that it makes no difference and that I should go ahead and friend him. Some confused the issue with being friends with their kids who had joined FB before them and others talked about sticking to rules, though I couldn’t quite figure out what those rules were.
In the end, there was as much confusion among my friends, as there is in real-life, where we need to sometimes just find our own path when confronted with issues that our parents never had to deal with. For e.g., I know that I will refuse my kids’ request for cellphones at this stage, but at what age is it fine for them to have one? Any rules for this?

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