The Great Facebook Debate

I’ve wanted to chime in on the subject of age appropriateness of kids using social networking sites, such as Facebook, probably since in the inception of Just Add Kids. With the First Lady, Michelle Obama’s opinion of how she feels Facebook fits into the lives of her children, Malia and Sasha, the national conversation has heated up.

Facebook is such a big part of my life, both personally and professionally. To me, a mature 40 something mom and business owner, it is an integral, efficient, inexpensive pipeline for communication and connectedness.  At the same time, I am perplexed when it comes to the necessity of my kids having their own social networking sites.

I’ve witnessed the evolution of electronic communication among our youth starting with email, to AIM, to now mobile phone texting and social networking.  I cannot believe it’s been already 3 years that my now 16 year old daughter talked about getting a MySpace account.  Of course she was only 13 at the time, “but mom, all my friends have one”.   Besides thinking she wasn’t ready to express herself so publicly, MySpace‘s Terms of Service indicated that she had to be 14 years old.  Wheow…that was good enough to serve as my answer to tell her “absolutely not, you are not old enough, even according to MySpace“.  So, what did she do?  She created an account anyway.  Got busted.  That’s another story.

Well then Facebook pretty swiftly replaced MySpace.  And when she turned 14, we talked about, set up her Facebook account, did the “locked down” mode on privacy settings, and “friended” each other.  As we both passed our second year on Facebook, I have about 200 friends, and she has nearly 3 times as many friends.  Really?  She doesn’t even have that many students enrolled in her high school for goodness sakes.  I am not picking on my daughter.  You go through her friends, many of them have over a thousand friends. My friends, for the most part, are people that I’ve met in person at some time in my life and had a friendship/relationship.  I’ve used Facebook to reconnect, strengthen and maintain our already developed friendships.  Nowadays, kids are meeting friends they’ve only met online.  Strange.

So back to the age debate with FacebookFacebook‘s age requirement is 13 years old.  While now I have two kids “of age” who have their own Facebook page, my 8 year old is begging me for one.  Can you guess why?  If course, because (some of) her friends have one and I know that to be true because those little girls have requested my friendship.  I would imagine those parents know of their child’s page as I am sure they had to help them set it up, and their moms have the tendency to be very active on Facebook, from what I have noticed.

Personally, even if I thought a child was social network ready, I would still abide by the rules, or Terms of Service, that are outlined.  At the same time, I don’t feel that 13 is necessarily an appropriate age for every kid.  There are kids that are well-adjusted, and more responsible than others.

Consider what experts suggest…know your child.   Parry Aftab, Executive Director of wiredsafety.org asks you to consider the following questions when deciding that your child is ready for social networking sites: Is your child well-balanced in school?  Do they play outside?  Do they have friends offline?

If kids are getting on too soon, might they be missing that window in their youth for social development?

We as parents need to consider what is right or wrong in each kid’s situation.  And if we ever need a backup when we say no, we can always put it on the First Lady!  She says “I’m not a big fan of young kids having Facebook.”  She continues, “It’s not something they need”.

Do you have a strong opinion either way?  When will you let your kids get their own social network site?  Let’s have a mature conversation on Just Add Kids Facebook page.  Or leave your comment here.



1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Lynn Troha said,

    I agree wholeheartedly! It really depends on the child. My almost “teen” daughter has one, but we do monitor her activities, friends, and posts. I look at it as a way for them to stay connected while we, as parents, have a “window” into their social circle. We talked about the safety and privacy settings and established rules before she set up her account. She is not allowed to “collect” friends, only adding new ones we approve first. She is also given a 9pm curfew online.

    Meanwhile, she is very socially active outside of the home and generally uses it to communicate with her friends when she is home. She maintains a high GPA in her honors classes, so the privileges we allow her are the use of computer, facebook and texting. If her grades would drop, those privileges would be taken away.

    I had a facebook page before my daughter did and since I am 30 years older than she is, I now have over 500 friends and she has only 98, so I think we are doing a good job monitoring her “friends”. I think at their age, it’s like status symbol to have a LOT of FB friends, so she doesn’t agree with our rules, but she goes along with it, so she can have her FB account. 🙂 It works for now!

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