What do you do when your parents start following you on social media.

Remember 2009? It was a freer time then.

For a while there, the internet was a parent-free zone, a glorious escape from your progenitors’ snooping eyes.

But no more. Facebook is now supremely uncool, which means everyone’s on it, including your mum, dad and Aunt Maureen. And they’re watching your every move.

The thing is, baby boomers are new to this internets business. They didn’t grow up with an innate sense of what’s acceptable online behaviour.

Unfortunately, no one’s parents are allergic to Facebook anymore.

Just a few short years ago, my parents were still blissfully ignorant of social media, lacking the wherewithal to navigate its various platforms.

I could tag myself in photographs that suggested budding alcoholism and poor decision-making, and swear with impunity.

That all ended when my mother and stepfather joined Facebook with a joint account (parents like to navigate the internet together, one hand each on the mouse).

I am the first to admit I handled it badly. Things were said that couldn’t be taken back. There was radio silence on Facebook, until I was desperate, just desperate, to see an obscure dad-joke on a picture of me posted by a friend they didn’t know.

This is the kind of thing that can happen when your parents get online.

Eventually, we made it up, but I learned an important lesson: the internet is a place we now share with our parents, so we need to learn to get along.

Here are my tips for having a harmonious online relationship with your parents.

1. Censor your profile.

Fact is, you don’t really want anyone to see that picture of you several margaritas deep and doing the Single Ladies dance. It wasn’t your finest moment. You are not Beyonce.

And no one thinks putting your middle finger up is clever, young lady.

2. Educate and lead by example.

Communicating on social media is like a whole different language. Older people who are new to it are often unaware of what’s appropriate.

I mean, they’re all over LOL (and my mum’s favourite OMG, which she actually says out loud now, “Oh em gee!”), but they might not realise that sending incessant Candy Crush requests is obnoxious, or that having an endorsement from your mum on LinkedIn is unlikely to score you a job.

Just sit ’em down and explain it. Don’t be patronising – they didn’t belittle you when you didn’t know how to ride your bike yet.

There has been a spate of incidences of grandmas tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash. It’s so cute I can’t stand it.

3. Be understanding.

Yes, fine, maybe your dad did just discover Keyboard Cat (rest in peace, you little treasure) and keeps sending you GIFs of the Star Wars kid, but remember when you saw those magical memes for the first time?


Remember how tickled you were by the honey badger that didn’t give a fuck, and the life-changing first time you encountered Grumpy Cat?

Cut them some slack.

Be prepared for them to take the piss out of you in front of all your friends.

4. Don’t act like a bitchy teenager.

“Don’t talk to my friends, oh my god, you’re sooooooo embarrassing!!!!!!!!!!!”

Sound familiar?

You can’t digitally throw a tanty, and while it’s excruciating to read your dad’s six comments on your friend’s status update, don’t be a jerk about it. He’s still learning. Plus, your friends probably love your Dad. He’s adorable.

4. Divert the attention onto a sibling.

Chances are, you can distract a parent who’s in the middle of trawling through all your photos/videos/posts/tweets and commenting on each and every one (“Your hair looks nice here!” “Is that a cigarette?”) by implicating a sibling.

“Hey Mum, look at this picture of Nick driving without a seat belt on!”

Bam. Thank me later. A glass of pinot should cover it.

5. Block their updates.

Does your dad post constant updates on the cricket? Terrible, terrible jokes? Block his updates. He’ll never know.

6. Extreme solution: create two accounts

If you don’t want to clean up your act but you can’t not accept your parents’ friend requests, this is the only way. Have one NSFP (not safe for parents) account, and one family-friendly account.

You’ll have to live a complicated double-life, weaving a web of deceit that will likely be unravelled at some point in the future, but for a while, you’ll be living the dream.

My parents totally get it now. Send me cat pictures with the promise of presents and you’ll have no problem at all.

So there you have it, tips for avoiding a family rift because of social media. My mum and stepdad and I are on great social media terms now. I cut them a bit of slack, and they understand the dos and don’ts. Mostly.

There’s a new problem, though. My dad’s just joined Facebook. He’s listed as his occupation “philanthropist” (he’s on the pension). He’s got a lot of free time.

Wish me luck.

More on netiquette?

Social Network Etiquette 101: Your guide to what to do.

The ‘experts’ can take a backseat. My 11 y/o’s on social media and I’m fine with that.

Is social media just making us all antisocial?