I 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?
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.