In recent months my 11 year-old daughter has been endlessly begging, pleading, ‘dying’ to let me set her up with a facebook account.
“Everyone has got one dad.”
“They’re calling me names because you won’t let me have one.”
Children should NOT be on facebook. In fact, children should NOT even have telephones that are more computer than phone!
Here are 5 BIG reasons why your child should stay off facebook:
Like it or not, cyberbullying is real and it affects most children in some way. This staggering example of bullying via the phone is becoming all too common. And it happens online in ways that are just as vicious and frightening.
2. Content that’s not for kids.
I have been ‘friended’ on facebook by several of my friends’ children. While I know that they will not see content on my page or in my updates that is inappropriate, I can’t help but be almost certain that some of their other adult ‘friends’ may not be so mindful of what is posted. To add insult to this statement, one of my ‘friends’ under the age of 13 (and therefore too young for facebook according to facebook) posted material that I was stunned to see! Facebook provides too many opportunities for kids to be exposed to things they really should not see.
3. Facebook and the ‘under 13’ rule.
The only reason that facebook has a rule that children under the age of 13 cannot use it is related to USA laws related to the collection of personal information on young people. It has NOTHING to do with the best interests of your child! Nothing at all. Facebook does not care how old your child is, or the extent to which exposure to inappropriate material may occur. Of course they do respond to complaints about inappropriate material, but by then it’s often too late – especially if it is your child.
4. Do you ‘really’ know your friends?
Several of the kids that have friended me on facebook, because their parents are my friends, have as many as 40 other friends in common with me. I suspect that they’re friends with many, many of their parents’ friends. But how well do you really know all your friends? While it’s unlikely, it is not impossible that your child could become friends with one of your friends, or even your friends’ friends (privacy settings can allow friends of friends to get access to your lists at times). Issues to do with keeping your child safe are magnified substantially under such circumstances. Private messages can be sent by strangers to your child. Attachments can be added to those messages and sent to your child – by those strangers who are friends, or friends of friends. Personal information can be obtained from your child, and so on.
5. Social and Developmental Psychology
Our children are simply not developed sufficiently to deal with the immediacy of facebook and all that electronic media entails. Simple face-to-face squabbles are challenging enough. When we incorporate the ‘nowness’ of the virtual world with the distance (perceived) and even a sense of anonymity (which can be easily manufactured) children struggle to inhibit anti-social impulses, and get easily swept up in whatever issues are present before them. Our young children, perhaps even under 18 – but at least 16 – are simply not sufficiently developed and mature to deal with what the electronic media offer them.
While this article is principally about facebook, the concerns extend to other media including email, mobile phones (watch this amazing video and follow the story), and the Internet more generally.
I suggest the following to keep your children safe:
First, keep them off facebook as long as you can… even beyond 13 if possible.
Second, keep communication open. If something bad happens, don’t threaten to remove technology privileges. This will only push the behaviour underground, making it deeper and harder to observe. Instead, talk, talk, talk, and listen! Lots!
Third, show your children just how fast these problems can escalate. The links, youtubes, and stories in this post can be used as helpful educational tools. Educate, educate, educate.
Fourth, keep computers in open, public areas of the house. Never allow computers (including laptops and mobile phones with connectivity) into the bedroom.
Five, be a helicopter parent… hover, hover, hover. Be over their shoulder and know what they’re doing. (And get used to seeing POS written in their chat – it means Parent Over Shoulder).
We can’t bubble-wrap our kids, but we can protect them from the negative effects that the cyberworld throws in their direction by being aware, and following the guidelines outlined here