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'Aw mom': the perils of being Facebook friends

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Josh Knoller warned his mom not to make certain comments on his Facebook page.

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Josh Knoller warned his mom not to make certain comments on his Facebook page.

JOSH Knoller, a young professional in New York City, spent years refusing his mother's friend request on Facebook before eventually "caving in." Today they have an agreement: She'll try not to make embarrassing comments, and he can delete them if she does.

"We actually got into some pretty big fights over this," says Knoller, 29. "I love my mom to death but she's a crazy, sweet Jewish mother and I was a little worried about what she might post in front of my closest friends."

One in three mothers is connected with their teens over Facebook, according to the social networking giant.

With more than 1 billion Facebook users, that's a lot of mothers and kids keeping in touch through social media, says Fordham University Prof. Paul Levinson, author of New New Media. "Facebook has been a boon to family relationships," said Levinson.

Kelly McBride, an assistant professor of communications at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, says her students who "friend" their mothers keep their Facebook pages benign, using other social media such as Instagram or Twitter for the racy stuff.

McBride says she'd like to get her own mother, who is 77, onto Facebook. "I've offered repeatedly to make her a Facebook page so I could friend her, but she just won't do it," she says.

Parenting expert Susan Newman recommends that mothers wait until their children are independent adults before friending them.

"Being a friend with your son or daughter on Facebook, to me is synonymous with reading your teenager's diary," she says. "Adolescents are trying to develop an identity and they have so much hovering and helicopter parenting going on, Facebook adds another layer that seems to be very intrusive."

But Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Online Safety Institute, says he was his daughter's first friend, a requirement for her to even have a Facebook account when she turned 13.

"I promised not to stalk her, but I do need to keep an eye on it," he says.

While 13-year-olds are the most likely group to initiate a friendship with a parent, with more than 65 per cent of those friendships being initiated by the child, people in their 20s are the least likely, Facebook says.

Rochelle Knoller, whose adult son Josh reluctantly accepted her friend request, says the early days of their online relationship were dicey. "I'd write a comment, and literally no sooner would I type when the phone would ring and it would be Josh... and he'd be telling me, 'Mom, you can't make comments like this. My friends can't even believe we're friends.' "

"Today we're pretty much down to where I'm allowed to 'like' something, and I'm allowed to go on his Facebook page and see what's going on with him," she says. "But that is it."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 B6

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