Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Facebook tips for grandma

July 30, 2014

Q.I’m not a teen, but will you answer my questions? My grandchildren bought me a computer for my 80th birthday. I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve learned to use it. The gift came with an online tutorial about Microsoft Office. I did pretty well. Now I want to surprise them by joining this Facebook thing I’ve heard about. I know the kids are on it because they talk about posting pictures, whatever that means. As you can see, I have a lot to learn. I like the way you explain things. Can you help an old grandma get up to speed? Which raises another question: Is it OK for me to go on this Facebook thing and look at their pictures? Would they want me to do that? Or do you think they’d like to keep that part of themselves private? I know my daughter and my son are on, so I’m guessing they can see their children’s pictures. All four of my grandchildren are teenagers. They’re good kids. One of them also told me I should learn to tweet. Whatever does that mean? I know I could ask my own children or my grandkids these questions, but I’m excited about the idea of figuring this all out and then seeing the looks on their faces when I understand. I think they want to share this with me, right? Why else did they buy me the computer/ By the way, did you notice I sent this via email? Two months ago I had no idea what email was. I’m a pretty quick study, don’t you think?

Grandma of teens

Mary Jo’s response: You are a very quick study! I’m impressed. I agree with your passion to learn. Life is a education. Good for you. Social media like Facebook can help connect with old friends, stay in touch with family and view those grandchildren pictures you mentioned.

Let’s first discuss your concerns about your grandchildren’s possible reactions to you joining Facebook or Twitter. I doubt they’d mind, but only they can answer this question honestly. I did ask our young people, and their response follows. If your grandchildren are like our peer educators I think you’d be very accepted on social media. One way or the other, starting a Facebook page can be fun for people of all ages. Why not get involved and then talk with your grandchildren to ascertain their thoughts. You’ll surprise them as you wish and also give them the chance to set boundaries. You can always be on Facebook without “friending” them. Again, I think they’ll welcome you.

Joining Facebook is really easy. The Facebook Help Center gives you step-by-step instructions at Here are the steps they recommend for signing up:

1. Go to

2. If you see the signup form, fill out your name, birthday, gender and email address. If you don’t see the form, click “Sign Up” and then fill out the form.

3. Pick a password.

4. Click Sign Up

After you complete the signup form, you’ll receive a confirmation email. To complete the signup process, click the confirmation link.

It’s that easy.

A few hints about signup:

• Teens use all types of names/name combinations on Facebook. Some have more than one page with more than one identity. If young people want to be secretive, they’re pretty skilled at doing so.

• I know many people (most of them teens) who don’t register their real birthdays. I did. Some teens like to pretend to be older. That’s not a problem for me.

• I wouldn’t post your actual address or phone number. I’m cautious with personal information.

• Record your password somewhere safe. You can always hit “forgot password” if you do, but it’s easier to retain it.

Once you’ve signed up, the rest is self-explanatory. You’ll be directed to your home page, which is called a “wall.” You control what you post (place) on Facebook, and you control who can see your page by selecting Facebook friends or accepting friends who seek you out. You set your privacy boundaries.

I found two fun tutorials online. One is a point-and-click, progressive tutorial that actually helps you sign up. If you successfully navigated an Office tutorial, this will be a breeze. It’s available at Other online tutorials are at and A YouTube Facebook for Seniors video that boasts a warning stating you “must be at least 50 years old” to view it is available at Your computer skills should make accessing these sites easy. I’ll send you the links via email so you can simply click on the hyperlink (place your cursor over the blue underlined section of my email). You can also Google Facebook tutorials.

I have a few personal rules about Facebook that you may enjoy. I never, ever “friend” a young person. If a teen “friends” me, I always accept. I’m there as a resource, not a stalker. I’m very careful what I post. I avoid political comments and postings. I’m aware of my many teen Facebook friends and try hard to model respect. To me, Facebook is an extension of my classroom. I’m also blessed to be a grandma. Grandmothers are magnificent role models. Teaching via Facebook isn’t always done by example. I will often send a private Facebook message to a young person (you simply click on “message” and select the friend to whom you wish to speak). I’ve reminded teens to be cautious with their postings. Once you post a picture or a comment on your wall, anyone can see it. You can select privacy settings to allow only your friend list to see your wall, but it is also possible to make your postings public. One way or the other, what happens online becomes a permanent record.

Your question about tweeting requires another column. I’ll look at Twitter next week.

Thank you so much for asking. Good luck!

Peer Educator response

We think your grandkids will be happy when you sign up for Facebook. Sometimes adults creep on Facebook and make public comments on teen pages that are embarrassing. Think about the fact that anyone can see your postings (or at least your friends can) and don’t write anything to your grandchildren you wouldn’t say in a public place. Have fun!



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