Monday, August 3, 2009

Mom, can I have a Facebook?

The debate about whether or not to let our kids have Facebook accounts has been going on for about a year now. We have three boys, ages 13, 13 and 12 (no twins - blended family). I guess its really not a debate because the conversations with my son go something like this:

Son: "Can I have a Facebook?" (side note - when did it become "having a Facebook" instead of "having a Facebook page"?)
Me: "No"
Son: "Why?
Me: "Because you're not old enough"
Son: "But all my friends have a Facebook?"
Me: "What did I say?"

(this repeats until heavy eye rolling takes over and teen retreats).

To me, my criteria for letting them have an account is crystal clear. Until they are smarter and more tech-savvy than the creeps who prey on children online, they do not get a social network account. Until their instincts are governed by safety, reason, and restraint and not "hey, that person looks friendly", they don't get near MySpace.

And its not because our kids aren't smart enough or don't have good intentions. They have great intentions. The problem is that they trust that everyone else has good intentions, too, and that is where the problem lies. They are trusting and playful. They think deeply about life one minute and are trying to see how many marshmallows they can fit in their mouths the next. They are gullible and snarky at the same time. Behind the back-talking, hormonal man-boy is an insecure teen trying to figure out his identity. And that's exactly where he's supposed to be.

Which is another reason why it is not the right time to get involved in social networks. Navigating the awkward, often uncomfortable, self-defining maze called adolescence should take place in a safe, supportive, forgiving environment. Where guidance is provided by trusted adults who care deeply about how their answers affect young minds. Young teens push boundaries, make mistakes, try stuff, and practice making decisions. I'd rather my kids work through those issues in real life and not online.

And don't get me wrong. I'm in the social media industry. I LOVE the internet! I'm a Twitter-a-holic and I go to blogging conferences. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but I don't think so. I just have a healthy dose of caution when it comes to my kids.

What are your views on kids, teens, and social media? Come join the conversation over here in my BlogFrog forum!

13 comments:

Scattered Mom said...

I let my kid blog and twitter, but he's not allowed to do Facebook. My Hubs job has really given him an eye opener to the creeps that prey on kids through face book, and the stuff that goes on there.

So Jake isn't allowed to have an account AT all. The funny thing? He tried to have one that I didn't know about, and the kids at school told me. (I work at his school) LOL!

Banteringblonde said...

My husband signed my boys up for facebook because he wanted to tag them in photos ... we disagree on the whole issue - I was furious and made him take them down. I'm with you on this, I do think that at some point we have to figure out how to teach them to be web/internet savvy so that they can learn to navigate ... but it is very scary!

Holly K said...

That is funny that your son (Jake) tried to have one and you found out! I know there is some middle ground in there somewhere. Right now, my kids do have gmail accounts but we have the passwords and they know we can log in and see the activity. I know there are parents who think this is a violation of privacy but its what I need as a parent to let them have the account. One son has a Playlist account (music site) but I made sure that I signed up too and "friended" him so I can see what music he is downloading.

I know I can't watch them forever but 13 just still seems so YOUNG to me :)

Jenny said...

My 15 and 16-year old daughters have them now, but it took a LONG time for me to agree. I finally gave in after my own MOTHER got one, and now she keeps track of my girls' facebooks for me ;-) The best thing to do is get one yourself and then be your child's friend- you'll know everything that's going on!!

Anonymous said...

My 16 year old has a Facebook page - she asked me before she set it up and I did think she was old enough and mature enough to use. She and her friends use it heavily to communicate. She wouldn't let me be her friend but she let her cousin, who's in her early 20s. So I asked my niece to keep a watchful eye on her for me. Since then my daughter has friended my sister, my brother and my sister-in-law but still won't friend me! I figure there's enough of my family watching her to keep her safe.

Then just recently I got a friend suggestion on my account that I might want to be friends with ... my son. Had to laugh about that. When I asked him about it he said he'd set it for his uncle who needed some screen shots for a presentation. He hasn't been using it and said yesterday he was going to delete it.

Mandy said...

That anonymous comment is me! forgot to sign in :)

Jenny said...

Hey Holly- I know you're on vacation, but when you get back, check out my blog cuz I gave you an award! You'll probably have to scroll down a bit!

Summer said...

That is a scary thing. I always tell Taylor, when he says things like....well so and so can, that so and so has different rules. So deal.

You should look into the iBoss. I got it for our computer and it is amazing!!!! I have a link on my sidebar, and I can't say enough amazing things about it.

It'll save your kids...and your husband! ha ha

Tim said...

Great post!

I'm so with you on this one. Im on Carey all the time about her facebook account as it scares me to death. Too easy to get viruses and all.

Im about to cancel my twitter account as it is. Im so done with getting people that want to follow me as they say come see my naked profile! What! RU kidding me. BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK is all I do.

Hope your having a good week!

Love and Prayers,

Tim

angie said...

I really appreciated this post. My kids are not old enough to want to explore social media, but I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that thinks that age is too young. If someone IN the social media industry has such a strong stance, it makes me feel better about my own.

PS I'm LOVING blogfrog

Beckie said...

Hi I absolutely agree! Yes FB Social Media can be scary territory for kids/teens. There is a software download called littleye.com that helps parents monitor where kids can go online. My kids are still little, but if they were teens they would not have an account.

The Happy Housewife said...

It doesn't make you a hypocrite because you are significantly older than 13, lol!
I don't let my kids have facebook either! Even if their friends' are a decent influence, who knows who their friends are, and so on and so on.
Good job stickin' to your guns mom!
My kids have learned the technology side of the internet through their blogs, where everything is moderated by me. No creeps allowed. :)
Toni

Cardamom said...

Hi, Holly! Just getting here from the kind comment you left on my blog after TrenchMommy featured me. So YOU'RE the Holly at the BlogFrog - I've seen your name here and there on Twitter, and from Kimberly at Raising Olives. She is a dear IRL friend of mine - although we haven't seen each other in a long time. We share a lot of info because we both have 9 kids and the same worldview...

Anyway, this post is GREAT - my oldest daughter is 14 and has a Facebook account but I know her passwords, talked about how to set all the privacy settings, and am almost always over her shoulder. She logs on about once every two weeks or so. My son just turned 13 and he declined the offer to have one. Cool! My children do not think it's weird that I have to know their passwords. My idea about invading their privacy is about not walking in on them while they're changing - the internet is another thing. I think it also helps that we let them sit right near us while we're on the computer and we talk about everything. Daddy has told them age-appropriate info about the internet creeps out there and they are actually HAPPY to be protected!

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