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Facebook’s No Place for Tweens

Tween Using FacebookI have been really struggling with this issue for some time. My daughter’s school has a Facebook Fan Page and often I will see her classmates posting comments. Did you know that you need to be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook account?

My daughter is in 7th grade and 12 years old, and will be 13 this summer. She has no Facebook account. Some of her friends who are also 12 (or younger) do have Facebook accounts. This means that they had to manually select a phony date of birth when filling out their initial account information. This means they purposely broke a rule. Worse, a couple parents that I have talked to said that THEY were the ones who set up the Facebook account for their tweens. Which means they lied for their kid!

There are reasons that websites, including social media platforms, have rules about the age restrictions of their users. They’re put in place to protect the safety of the children involved, to prevent children from accessing adult material, to prevent them from dealing with mature situations or subjecting themselves to content that is geared toward adults.

I believe that even 13 is too young. There is no reason for any middle schooler to be on Facebook. I can’t think of one good reason. I do believe having access to the Internet for research, and occasional gaming and some of the social sites that are geared toward children, when used within reason can be OK. But Facebook?

I have heard of cyber-bullying and I have seen it happen even among adults online. I have seen inappropriate posts, pictures, false tagging, and links to questionable material outside of Facebook. I do not know why any PARENT would want to subject their middle schooler to this. What is the benefit? Socializing with their friends? That is what real life is for. Even though I am an advocate of using Facebook for business, and I love connecting with people online, I do not think it is appropriate for children.

I believe parents need to fully understand social media so they can make better decisions about what is and isn’t OK for their kids, and so they can better monitor their activities. With laptops and iPod Touch and iPhones more prevalent, access to social media even at 11 and 12 years old is easy.

Today, Dr. Laura Schlessinger posted on her blog about a middle school Principal who sent an email to all his school’s parents encouraging them to cut their kids off from Facebook. What do you think?

http://www.drlaurablog.com/2010/05/06/principal-says-no-to-social-networks-for-kids/

PS: My oldest daughter who will be 16 this summer, does have a Facebook account and uses it to post poetry. She is only connected to family members so far but as she matures I do believe she will be better equipped to deal with the negative aspects of social media. My opinion in this post applies to pre-teens.

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5 Comments

  1. Kelly Ann on May 7, 2010 at 5:09 am

    You know, the ethical and moral concerns of parents lying for their children is as old as time and, unfortunately, I don’t see it changing. I find that, at times, they forget that they are the moral and ethical compass for their children. As part of “growing up” we emulate our parents, at least in part, until we discover what makes us who we are as… See More individuals. Shame on the parents for lying, and shame on them for letting their children lie without consequences.

    In my opinion, rules are rules. No Facebook page until you’re old enough. That’s part of the bonuses in life. You get to do more things when it’s age appropriate to do so AND when you’re mature enough to handle it. Just because you’ve met the age requirement, doesn’t mean that you’re mature enough. Oh, and shame on the school(s) for implicitly contributing to this issue.

    With all the technology out there and the way that things are changing so quickly, it’s our job as parents to stand our ground even more (not that I have children…yet). We must protect our children. The more advanced things get, the more potential dangers there are.

    I guess this is my long-winded version of ” I 100% agree with you”… lol

  2. Gregory Clark on May 7, 2010 at 5:59 am

    I agree. Like kids need one MORE distraction anyway. Most adults aren’t equipped to deal with all the predators out there, let alone a 12 year old, or even a 16 year old for that matter. Keep the kids off FB, MySpace and Twitter for now, they have PLENTY of other ways to keep in touch, such as e-mail, texting and the telephone (yes, I said it, the TELEPHONE! LOL).

  3. Kathe on May 7, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I, honestly, wrestled for weeks with this very issue late last summer. My daughter had not yet turned 13 and most of her friends were 13 and had FB pages. I joined FB myself to see what it was about, see who was on it and, basically, assess the risks vs. the positives. I saw my very devout Christian cousin’s children had pages and asked her advice. She basically shared that she hadn’t even read the rules so didn’t know about the age requirement. The dishonesty issue was right there in my face. However, for cyber-safety reasons, I would not have used her correct birth year even if there had not been those restrictions.

    I believe in following rules. I also believe, as a parent, that it is MY right to assess whether my child is ready to deal with the responsibility and MY choice to decide if I will allow her/him to have a FB page. I am a walking contradiction in this matter — I totally realize this. I believe I am a very responsible, very aware, very cautious parent.

    For me, the ability to talk to her friends without the cost of texting (she is on a prepaid plan with her cell phone in order to learn responsible phone use/how to budget), the ability to share her pictures she has taken with her friends and family (similar to poetry postings — my daughter’s artistic with photos), and, more importantly to me, the ability to talk to/get to know far away family members overrode any and all other concerns. I discussed the dishonesty issue with her…told her of the age requirement…explained my cyber-safety concerns…etc.

    We have a “contract” of sorts. I have her password and access to her FB page at anytime. She is on the computer in the same room as I am most of the time and I often see who she is chatting with and what they are chatting about. She is not allowed to “friend” anyone she does not know fairly well. She knows that anything posted is out there forever and that she should not post anything she doesn’t want her great aunts to see or know about. Those great aunts and cousins rarely get to see her and it is a huge deal for them to be able to have real time conversations with her on a regular basis.

    Morally, I broke the age rules on FB. That part bothered me for a long time. I could have set up with a blog…but the priceless, spontaneous conversations she has with far away family members outweighs my guilt. My children have no grandparents for the most part — their grandfather rarely interacts with them. They have no older family members close by to interact with and have mentor them. FB has allowed all of us to get to know each other in a way we would never have been able to otherwise. Yes, there is email, but that can be a long wait btw. conversations if they don’t send right away and texting and the phone — well that would be wonderful too, but our family is on such a tight budget (living on unemployment less the $ I earn from clients is pretty small) that it is an impossibility.

    Yes, I have just spent a lot of time defending my choice. And, it WAS a very TOUGH decision, but I stand by my choice.

  4. Karen
    Follow me on Twitter: mybizpresence
    on May 7, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for all of the thoughtful responses so far – keep em coming! Kathe in particular I am wondering if the benefits would not be just as rich and long-lasting had you waited until she was ‘legal’? Having been in long distance situations for many years I completely get your dilemma. And I appreciate how CONSCIOUS and intentional you are as a parent.

  5. Pat Zahn on May 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Karen – I don’t honestly see why tweens need to be on FB…that age is so vulnerable and immature. Time and time again we hear about cyber-bullying through sites like FB and many friends have shared such situations. But honestly, kids figure out how to get around you anyway. So, talk to them about FB or other social media outlets and set ground rules. Like, even for my 16 year old, I REQUIRE that I’m her FB friend and that I know her password. I don’t really pry…but if I see something troubling, I ask her. It is troubling that we keep upping the ante of what is a privilege for children – let them be children longer.

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