Facebook and kids

This post has been on my mind for a long while now. I was one of those parents who allowed my child to have a Facebook account before the legal age. He expressed that all of his friends had accounts and that he just had to have one, too, but that wasn’t the reason I agreed to allow Nick his first experience with social media because my responsibility as a parent is to him and his brother, not to his friends. See, I’d been on Twitter and Facebook for a while before allowing him this priviledge. I know my way around the internet and social media pretty well and I think that’s an important quality when our kids are online more and more nowadays. Do you think you could take them out to practice driving a car if you don’t have a driver’s license yourself? Of course not. So why on earth would you allow them into an online world that opens doors to many wonderful connections, but also some very scary ones as well, without any knowledge yourself? The required age for Facebook is 13. Thirteen. They are still children and they still need us as parents to look out for them. Just because your child is 13 and meets the criteria for a Facebook account doesn’t mean they will be safe and responsible on their own. Their brains just aren’t ready for that yet. With all of the changes that Facebook is constantly making when it comes to privacy settings I know adults who can barely keep up with them, let alone the kids. I recently had this conversation with a few other parents and one of them said they feel if you give your child the tools and put trust in them to be responsible, they will be able to handle it. I call bullshit! That’s just another way of being lazy and allowing the computer and internet to parent your kids.

Would it surprise you to know that anyone could see your child’s profile on Facebook even if they are aren’t connected as friends? It certainly blows my mind when I’m checking in on Nick’s account (my knowing his password was an absolute must when we agreed to him having an account, with the understanding I might check in at any time) and I poke around at some of his friends to see what kinds of photos they are sharing, especially some of the young girls, and the information they share. Things like cell phone numbers and physical addresses are often shared by these young people. If you add the fact that their security settings aren’t set to only show information to friends this could be a serious safety concern.

Facebook wasn’t created as a playground or kid sitting service for your children. It can be used as a wonderful way to connect and socialize, but there is a certain responsibility that goes with it and it’s our job as parents to have a conversation about these kinds of things with our kids. After the conversations, we must follow-up with the monitoring of their online accounts. This isn’t about trusting or mistrusting them. Bad people, including predators, are going to exist regardless of how well we protect our kids, but taking some precautions is a must if we are going to allow them online in a space where they aren’t constantly being supervised.

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