Yesterday, my wife does what she does every morning: she reached over for her iPhone when she woke up and started checking her Facebook. And then she almost screamed.
My younger teenage son, J., had spent the night at a friend's. He had posted a status update at around 4:00 am: "Not feeling so good. I feel like I might be dying or something." This led to a few frantic moments, as he failed to answer his cell phone.
The upside was that he wasn't dead. He had broken out in a rash during an all-night XBox session—an apparent allergic reaction. This led to a discussion about what is appropriate for a public Facebook status update, what is better left for a phone call home, and what the meaning of the word "hyperbole" is.
- Commentary on the quality of a video game: good for Facebook.
- Possible medical emergency: call home, don't post.
- Endorsement of the strawberry-kiwi juice you've been slamming for the past hour: good for Facebook.
- Pictures of the rash that it caused over your entire body: just don't.
Sometimes, teenagers need a reminder of the multiple audiences that they have when posting online. Yes, Facebook can be a lot faster than the phone for some things—especially when your friends won't answer their phones because they're playing Call of Duty, and their voicemail boxes are full, and their parents suspended their texting privileges because they wouldn't put their phone away at the dinner table. But Facebook status updates aren't instant messages, and they aren't emails—unless you lock down who can see them, they're visible to all your "friends", or maybe everyone on Facebook.