Under 13 And On Facebook
My son is almost 12, he is in Grade 6, and he tells me often that he is the only kid in his year that does not have a Facebook account.
He has one year to go to legally join the site, but we are leaning towards letting him lie and join a year early. It doesn't feel good but I do know that most of his friends have an account and I would rather that he joined while I still had some influence over him, than have him join without me knowing. Because that is what kids do.
If you don't believe me ask the Vice-Principal of your local middle school; they will tell you that all the grade sevens have an account, but many parents don't know it.
I want to be there to see how the whole Facebook situation unfolds, whereas many parents are completely in the dark about the social networking site. Which means you miss alot of opportunities for "teachable moments" about the site and about social media and online behaviour in general.
According to one of my favourite media sites, commonsensemedia.org, 7.5 million kids under 13 are on Facebook. Seventy-three percent of teens aged 12- 17 have some kind of social media profile. The reason that Facebook doesn't allow kids under 13 isn't out of the goodness of its own heart, it is because they buy and sell data on each and every one of its users and it is illegal to sell data on someone who is under 13.
As a parent, I want to make sure that I am as informed as I can be about the realities of Facebook in teen's lives. The more you read and research, the more freaked out you can get. This article from Redbook argued both sides of letting under-age kids on Facebook, check it out and make your own decision.
- We will allow him on Facebook.
- We will be his friends. (Though after reading this post, I thought about that one.)
- We will not demand his password.
- We will tell him he has a right to privacy to a certain point, but if he crosses the line there will be repercussions.
- We will make sure his privacy settings are locked tight.
- We will hope for the best, let him make mistakes, and report to the school as need be.
- We will also be good role models on Facebook, so he can see how it can be used for good.
From the research I have done, I am slowly coming around to the idea that technology is not as scary as we adults think it is. I wrote an article for the March issue of Canadian Family in which some experts said that technology has not changed teens behaviour; the only thing that has changed is the delivery system.
An interesting article in the New York Times said the same thing - that kids behave online as they do in real life. And parents need to stop fearing technology to the point of shunning it. Because this is the reality of our kids' lives - they don't see technology as scary or something to conquer, they see it as a tool.
I'm not naive - I see how dangerous Facebook can be. I can see that kids collect friends and their messages can be distorted and disseminated across thousands of people. I see that all social media - from online gaming to social sites carry an element of obsessiveness and danger to them.
But I think the way to deal with fear is knowledge.
Don't hide from the site, you need to be on it and you need to have a basic knowledge of how it works, the settings, the advertising and how information is spread.
My son and I have had many discussions about all these issues. We will see how much he has truly understood when we finally get around to helping him create an account.
Would you allow your under-13 child on Facebook?
Want more chaos? Last year I posted a funny video about birthday party excess.