Last summer, our 13-year-old daughter got in trouble. Big trouble. As a result of her walk on the wild side, she lost all of her modern conveniences: cell phone (gasp!), television, laptop, radio and….Facebook. We almost took the make-up away.

Almost. She owes her mom big time.

This was a Level 5 incarceration for the entire summer. When the school year started again, we told our daughter she could earn back her stuff through doing well in school and staying out of trouble. Since then things have been better. Her behavior improved and her grades are up. Life, as they say, is good. She’s earned back her phone, television, radio and laptop.

So naturally the talk of her rejoining the rest of her friends on the interwebs has been a little more frequent. But the last thing – the final holdout for us as parents – was Facebook. Before the craziness that landed her in the proverbial clink, she displayed some questionable judgement around Facebook. There were posts we told her to remove, pictures posted we thought were inappropriate, and online behavior that we just didn’t like.

This week my wife and I decided to give her back the keys. Instead of busting caps into her laptop, we sat down together as a family and came up with some ground rules for her re-entry into the Facebook foray. Most our daughter came up with herself. These are now a contract hanging on the refrigerator,  signed as a condition of her “parent-sanctioned” use of Facebook.

Those rules are below:

1. Spelling and Grammar Matter.
This is self-explanatory, or at least it should be. No, “cant” is not the same as “can’t”. “To” isn’t the same as “too”. And “people know what I mean” is lame. Type it correctly, spell out the words, use the right punctuation or don’t post it at all.

2. If it could make someone mad or sad or embarrassed, don’t post it.
Like mom’s wise advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Seems this is good guidance for the online world as well.

3. If you wouldn’t wear your status update printed on a t-shirt to church or Grandma’s house, don’t post it.
Love this one. Puts a whole new perspective on what we think is appropriate to post online for the world to see. And we will hold you accountable for the stupid and inappropriate things your friends post on your wall, photos, status updates, etc. Educate them well or “unfriend” them.

4. Arguing on the internet is for idiots. You aren’t an idiot. Don’t get sucked in.
Ever have a disagreement with someone over email? It’s frustrating and doesn’t accomplish much. Same with Facebook comments, except now you’re trying to reason with a teenager – which we all know is impossible.

5. If you must, stand up for yourself and your friends in real life. It’s way cooler.
Hiding behind a keyboard is lame. If someone isn’t playing nice or fair, don’t try to settle it on the internet. Face it, don’t Facebook it.

6. You are “single.”
You are 13. You are not in a relationship with anyone until you are 30. OK, maybe 25.

7. The internet (and your posts, messages, pictures) is forever. Colleges and future employers can find this stuff.
Privacy settings are a joke. Anyone with a little skill can find out much more about you than you’d like. Assume everything you post online can (and most likely will) be found. Think about this before you post anything.

8. Only “friend” people you know. Creepers are everywhere.
The people who friend request you on Farmville aren’t your friends. They’re likely somewhere halfway around the world trying to figure out a way to hack your system and steal your identity. Or worse, your pictures could end up on some really bad sites.

9. Never be a Bully.
Online bullying happens more often that it should. Don’t be a part of it. If you see someone being bullied in real life or online, say something to an adult.

10. Don’t be a Drama Queen.
This is just an all-around, go-to rule for a teenage girl.

11. Have self-respect. Yes, you like how you look in a bikini. Don’t objectify yourself.
Some of the stuff young girls post online is just shocking. Photos of themselves in mirrors are just part of it. Boys look at that stuff. Just think about that for a few seconds and let it sink in. Yeah, ewwww. Or these pictures could show up in other places. Self-respect begins here.

12. You will be “friends” with Mom and Dad and lots of other adults – and we will be watching.
You have zero expectation of privacy. We will call you out. We are your parents and we love you. You might not like that sometimes, but someday you will understand.

Turns out these are pretty good rules – not just for our teenage daughters, but maybe for us all.

Parents, what are some of your favorite Facebook rules for your teenager?

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