A growing number of parents are becoming their children’s Facebook friends in a bid to connect, writes Aparna Karthikeyan

Aha, so you thought you know your child well? That you’re this clever, modern, clued-in parent, because you’ve smugly devoured all parenting books, starting with Spock, cover-to-cover? Well, then, perhaps you could try answering these questions — What exactly would your daughter dress as for a Halloween party? No clue? Well, then, could you name your son’s best friend’s favourite football team? Too tough? Right, how about hazarding a guess about which part of the body your child is raring to get pierced? No again?

See? It’s not easy, this “I’m my son/daughter’s best-friend” thingy — it’s hard, way harder than the books make it sound. I suppose, not so long ago, some parents, similarly disillusioned by this whole “friends-with-kids” business raved, ranted, wrung their hands and cried; and God, merciful God — sick and tired of all the tears — had Facebook created. Just so that the whingeing souls could invite their kids to be their “friends”, sing ‘happily ever-after’ and be done with it…

The FB advantage

Vaani Anand, Facebook friends with her son and daughter, feels that the popular networking tool is clearly changing the way people relate to each other, and that it’s especially true, with respect to families. “I get to know so much about my kids, which I may not know otherwise. We may not be talking about some things, but I know what they are thinking from their Facebook status message.” Agrees Mythili Sriram, a recent convert, and Facebook friends with both daughter and daughter-in-law: “I got onto the bandwagon when I heard people mentioning my daughter’s status messages, and I too signed up just to find out what it was all about!"

Status messages are, of course, just the tip of the iconic FB iceberg; however, if you’re an FB newbie, you might be surprised just how eloquent they can be.

Some precisely tell you what the person is feeling / doing, down to mundane details such as drinking chai-latte; others publicly name their new guinea-pigs/boy-friends; why, one even went “pity, I only know my daughter 53%”. (The last, by the way, was the despondent message of a friend, who was anxiously trying out his daughter’s ‘how well do you know me’ quiz.)

But that’s not all…being part of the great, big FB family has several important advantages. You get to see, for instance, the big picture — pics and stuff that your kids post online, and more importantly, the ones their network is. And, it’s precisely for this reason that some kids don’t want their parents as friends. Why, just the other day, this tech-savvy IT honcho was all cross… his son had turned down his invite to be a “friend”. For the fourth time running!

Siddarth (name-changed on request), all of 11, mentions how his family has badgered him to be FB friends with them. “It’s not just mum and dad; aunts, uncles, cousins who live on the other side of the world — everybody’s a friend now, and they all know what I’m up to! Scary.”

“Really, the only reason I don’t add my mum as a friend is because she’ll get all paranoid and ask me a 1,001 questions, when in reality there is nothing to be worried about” argues Veda, an avid teenage Facebooker. ‘Besides, I’d rather talk about my life with my mum in person than on Facebook!”

But, Shyma Mathai, mother of two boys, thinks otherwise. She reminisces about how she and her husband made a conscious decision to become Facebook friends with their sons. “We certainly didn’t accept each other as friends to be cyber-snoops; we simply want to be there for them, and we want them to participate in our lives too. Moreover, since my husband lives in Colombo, he is thrilled to read or view their status messages, snaps and comments.”

“You know, I might not be an ‘online friend’ for my teenage daughter”, says Padma Ramesh, (admittedly a little miffed that her friendship request was refused), “but I’m very glad she is generally open, letting me browse through her albums and suggest a comment or two”.

“I think the comfort level of the relationships between parents and children are reflected in their online presence as well,” muses Vaani. “I have to say I am lucky to be a part of my kids’ world!” enthuses Shyma. “I wonder if we would have had such similar interactions with our parents during our younger days? Hardly, I suppose!”