Stanford offers 'Facebook for Parents' course

A new course at Stanford University beginning on Thursday, Feb. 19 aims to bring parents into the relatively unfamiliar realm of social networking sites in order to make them more aware of what their kids are up to online.

The four-part course, titled "Facebook for Parents," is being co-taught by BJ Fogg, associate professor at Stanford and the author of "The Psychology of Facebook," and his sister Linda Phillips, whose background is business and marketing.

The three main objectives of the class, Phillips explained, are to keep kids safe online, help parents monitor the information their children reveal online, and teach parents that social networking sites can actually help their kids learn important life skills.

The hands-on classes, Phillips said, will offer a starting point for parents unfamiliar with the format of social networking sites.

Parents will be taught how to create their own Facebook pages, send "friend requests" to their kids, review the content on their pages, view who their kids are friends with, and monitor their kids' activities in the site's "News Feed" feature.

Phillips, who has several children ranging in age from 10 to 25, said she is "friends" with all of her kids on Facebook and said the site has helped her become familiar with her children's friends.

"This is responsible parenting, knowing who their friends are and who is involved in their life," Phillips said. "We're ineffective as parents if we are naive and ignorant."

Phillips said she has received mixed reactions to the idea of parents joining Facebook.

One young adult initially complained that she felt like her mother only intended to spy on her, but her attitude changed when she realized that her mother just wanted to be involved in her life, Phillips said.

Phillips said that when parents go online, many teens and young adults initially feel their space is being invaded -- especially at an age when they crave autonomy and independence.

This is something for parents to keep in mind, she said, and to be careful and respectful of the idea that their kids have a life separate from their families. Parents should simply use the site as an opportunity to establish rapport and trust with their children, Phillips said.

"Social networking is not going away. It is important that parents understand that and get up to speed," she said.

The "Facebook for Parents'' course is free and open to all parents. The course begins on Feb. 19 and runs through April 2. More information is available online at


Posted by BJ Fogg, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 7:51 am

this story has some errors in it.

I'm not a professor. I direct a research lab at Stanford.

also, I'm the co-editor of Psychology of Facebook, not the author.

BJ Fogg, Ph.D.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Veggie Grill coming soon to Mountain View's San Antonio Center
By Elena Kadvany | 21 comments | 3,359 views

Is HBO's Silicon Valley Any Good?
By Anita Felicelli | 23 comments | 2,202 views

Finding mentors in would-be bosses
By Jessica T | 0 comments | 1,918 views

The No Sweat Way to Bike to Work
By Janet Lafleur | 9 comments | 1,906 views

Analyze data yourself with R - a fast growing language for statistics, forecasting and graphs
By Angela Hey | 1 comment | 1,034 views