PATRICK WHITE From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2007 2:01AM EDT Last updated on Friday, May 07, 2010. 03, 2009 12:20PM EDT.
Until seven weeks ago, Shelley van der Spank heard just two words when she asked her two teens about their lives: nothing. What did you learn at school today? Nothing. What are you doing on the computer all day? Nothing. What is this Face book thing I'm always hearing about, nothing. Ms. van der Spank eventually figured out that last one for herself.
But just when she started to think Facebook was an infallible new weapon in the battle to keep tabs on her children, the unexpected happened: The teens began spying on her. They snoop on my screen, count my friends, view my pictures and offer silly comments, says Ms. van der Spank, who is now resorting to privacy measures normally reserved for teens blocking nosy parents.
In some cases, the site is actually strengthening family ties. For Ms. van der Spank, Facebook is a source of conversation topics that stirs her teens to insights beyond, nothing. I saw on Facebook that Amy is not with Joe any more. ‘The kids open right up and we talk about it, share ideas, laugh.
She was torn, but in the end she couldn't deny her mother. It's really changed our relationship she says. Mother is now looking at pics of me bonging a beer. Parents have congregated on Facebook to such a degree that in some cases they are now the ones trying to keep their children off the site.
Since then, Facebook's total user base has doubled. Used to be a wide open space, says Fred Stutzman, a University of North Carolina graduate student who's writing his dissertation about Facebook. Since it opened up, people have been turning on their privacy options.