7 Unspoken Rules To Follow When Posting In Parents’ Facebook Groups
Will the group be a font of information, or one of the layers of hell? What parents post makes all the difference.
I know that Facebook is a dying medium, but while we wait for the next gen of school parents to form Discord channels, most of us find each other on Facebook, for better and for worse. I'm not talking about a school's official Facebook page, full of dull information like the main phone number and the mascot. I mean the parent Facebook group, where all different kinds of parents show up and the real sh*t goes down.
Is there such a thing as etiquette in these groups? Sure, they usually have generic "rules" you must agree to, but the reality is there's a lot of nuance not covered (and, honestly, we all know people read and forget those rules as soon as they agree to them). Then there are some things that should be more obvious than they are, but we could all stand a reminder or two about them. In other words, there are absolutely unspoken rules of Facebook parenting groups.
With that said, here's what to do — or, more often, what not to do — to keep a school-parent group or neighborhood group civilized.
1. Don't rage-post.
We're all adults who have been on social media for years, so you'd think we'd know better, but I still see parents take out frustrations on Facebook. They're mad at a teacher, angry about some controversial school policy, or disgusted by the cafeteria food — and they just spew. It's cathartic to write, but... you'll regret it. Inevitably some comments will offer counterpoints that make your blood boil. It would be nice if others would simply send a "care" emoji, but someone always has to challenge your point of view. Also, if you have a very specific complaint, it's best to be the crazy parent and bring it directly to the teacher, school board, principal, or PTA. And if it's a low-key annoyance, b*tch to your friends. That's what texts are for!
2. If you only want sympathy, that's cool and a total do.
If you must vent, don't set it up as a rage post; set it up requesting support and keep it about yourself and not others. "I'm a first-time kindergarten mom, and these dropoffs are killing me. Please tell me it will get better" is a post that's going to get you virtual hugs and maybe even a new-parent friend in the same boat.
3. Don't post the same question that's already been asked a hundred times.
As a longtime haunt on several neighborhood and school-parent groups, I have to sigh each time someone logs on for the first time, announces themselves, and then asks a question that has already been answered repeatedly. Before you post, "What do I do if I have to take my child out of school early?" please note the magnifying glass icon that lets you search all previous posts, then search something like "early dismissal." Unless this is a brand-new group, your question has been answered before.
4. Do post questions that let people help you.
People love to be helpful. They want to pass on the names of great afterschool programs, places to buy starter instruments for first music lessons, tips on dressing kids for the Halloween parade, and so on. They want to warn you that the holiday party lasts two hours, so go ahead and ask if you should take that whole morning off of work. They want to compare notes on such burning topics as, "do you make your child go to school on a half-day?" and "How much do you put in for the teacher gift?" Anytime you can ask an open-ended question that lets people relate their own experience on noncontroversial subjects, you'll get a ton of great information. Pro tip: Avoid asking about obviously touchy subjects, including booster shots and standardized tests.
5. Do be kind, and don't put your eye-rolling judgments in writing.
There was a real doozy recently in a college-parent forum I am in. A mom of a freshman asked, in all sincerity, if it was OK for her son to ask his two roommates to leave the room for an hour each night while he talked to his mom. Repeat: The plan was for this mom to FaceTime with her college kid for one full hour each night, ideally in total privacy. I laughed, then felt super sorry for this child, then felt sorry for the mom, but I wrote nothing. I was pleased to see a few people gently suggest, so nicely, that she dial that back to a short phone call per night and/or a one-hour FaceTime on weekends so that the kid would have more space to connect with his peers. But then someone had to jump in and tell her she was being way too much of a helicopter. Listen, we were all thinking it, but you didn't have to say it.
6. Do a little research before you put up a "my kid says..." post.
My kid says the cafeteria workers are mean. My kid says none of the lockers work. My kid says everyone is late for first period. I'm not going to say kids make stuff up, but they do let loose frustrations that might be, um, slight exaggerations. Investigate a bit before you put it to the group. Sometimes these are issues for your kid to solve and are not for the Facebook group to solve for you. Also, see the above advice on rage-posting and consider going directly to the school with your concern.
7. Finally, if you can Google for the answer, do that.
There is a hilarious number of posts with questions that Google can answer. What time does the coffee shop near the school open? Does anyone know if it is supposed to rain on Friday? You know what, just ask Siri.