Should Your Kids Be On Facebook?

[twitter]@YummyMummyClub has started a discussion this morning about kids and Facebook. Should your kids be on it?

The arguments lie with the rules of Facebook stating users must be at least 13, but in an era where kids can operate smartphones before they know how to tie their shoes, the push to get online is coming younger and younger.

My children are 3 and 1. They have blogs, twitter accounts, youtube channels and facebook pages. They dont know how to use them, I control the content and the connections, but I am building a network for them so that when the time comes it’s ready for them.

We hear many stories about child predators and the dangers of the online world. It’s easy to live in fear when the media constantly terrorizes us. Yes, the rules state that 13 is the minimum age for Facebook, but when you’re faced with highly networked children (who most likely already have cell phones that you gave them because you were afraid of them waiting for a bus alone after school) you have to ask yourself – What Would Lenore Skenazy Do?

Lenore writes a fabulous blog called Free Range Kids. She wants us to let go of the manufactured fear we face as parents when raising our kids. She wants us to let them go to the park alone. She wants us to let them walk home from school. She wants us to let them play. She wants us to let them be kids.

We need to loosen up.

Are there bad people online? Yes.

Are kids fully able to distinguish friend from foe in this tangled series of tubes? Not likely.

And there lies the best part of opening your kids to Facebook: a chance to teach them. By getting your kids online, you can show them the right way to do things. You can empower them with the filter to learn what’s good and what’s bad and how to create a positive online identity.

By getting them in the game earlier, they’ll have more experience in networking. They’ll learn the rules and, hopefully, it will be another place for you to engage your kids on their level. It’s kind of like the parent that lets their teen take a sip of wine at the family dinner table. By not making the behaviour outrageously taboo, you take away some of the allure of being deviant (something attractive to teens).

Just look at the campaigns of abstinence vs sex education. By simply saying “this is bad” and closing the door, you are sending your children into the world without the most vital tools they’ll need to survive: knowledge and information.

The world is not a scary place, when you know what you’re doing. It’s the naive that easily fall into traps when they’re not aware of their surroundings.

So let your kid have the account when they want it and just start with some ground rules until they understand what the social network is all about.

Rules for Facebook:
1. Parent and child MUST be friends.
2. Parent MUST know child’s account password.
3. Parent gets full editorial control over the child’s profile

We all get learner permits before a full driver’s license. This is the same thing.

Are your kids on Facebook?

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  1. Karen B February 5, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I agree 100%! Our 13 year old got her account this year, and we did the same as you suggest, we are her friends, we have the password and we monitor it! For example, she changed her profile to “single” and interested in “men”…WHOA! That got wiped out right away! lol

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  3. Erica Ehm February 5, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I appreciate the philosophy of this post reminding us not to over-coddle our kids – They need to start to learn how to fend for themselves.

    Having said that, I will share with you a pretty intense experience I had 2 weeks ago going to my son’s school to hear online safety expert Rob Nickel talk about sexual predators. It was eye opening and frankly terrifying. The number of predators out there are growing and their methods are slow and insidious. This is not fear mongering. It’s a fact. Will they target your kid? Probably not. But could it happen? Sadly, yes.

    So, here’s what I suggest: Please add to your blog and provide well researched tips for parents on how to really protect their kids online – your 3 suggestions are good but not enough to keep them safe.

    I’m thrilled that all the kids from grade 5 – 12 at my sons school were also given the talk from Rob Nickel so they understand the potential dangers lurking. Basically he scared those kids but giving them the straight goods.

    All the knowledge we can share about this topic to kids and parents will be very helpful but a parent must be there to monitor all the time. That’s a fact.

  4. STARBUCKLY February 5, 2011 at 8:55 am

    The FB page for kids is a great idea. There are many cases when a parent may want to share photos and important events about their kids but may want it separate from their personal FB account (in cases where parents have split for example). You can have an online presence for your kids and keep it safe.

  5. xSiteable February 5, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Excellent, great points, I agree for the most part. Children should learn social values, morals, ethics and etiquette both offline and online at an early age. They have incredible retention during these early years and there’s little doubt in my mind, it will better prepare them for the future.

    Very timely discussion for us. My wife and discussed these ideas just recently since the birth of our little girl.

    I’m not sure how much value there is in securing these accounts for your toddlers BEFORE they have an understanding but I admit my six week old has a Twitter account (mostly for my fun).

    Education is definitely the key and I commend you for facing these NEW challenges and opportunities in raising a child with an open mind.

  6. DJEXCESS February 5, 2011 at 9:12 am

    You certainly have thought this through for you kids, and I think that using the guidelines you’ve suggested will keep kids relatively safe, especially with an ACTIVE parental presence. Maybe I will let my 9 year old onto Facebook. Thank you for showing parents a way to involve their children in the growing social media universe while still keeping them the the protective bubbles we call our comfort zone. Cheers!

  7. admin February 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I should add a caveat lest I come off as one of the preachy parents I have railed against in the past. Your mileage may vary, use the pros and cons presented here and at YMC to do what’s right for your family. I offer my opinion just to further debate and present both sides.

  8. Kar February 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Both of my two sons are on Facebook. They are 9 and 11 and have been on FB for the past 2-3 years. 

    In addition to your suggested rules we also have final approval of all friends. This is not so we can weed out any bad influences, but it is to make sure they actually know who they are accepting. Last week my eldest had a friend request from a Marshal Mathers. Even his own gut instinct told him not to accept, and that is what we want. Teaching them to heed that instinct in unframilar territory is why we allowed them onto FB at a younger age. 

    Additionally, when we allowed our oldest son to join, one of his first friend requests was from a girl, none of us recognized the name but he knew her picture. Turns out her parents wouldn’t allow her on FB, so one day while at a cousins house she joined. But she joined under a fake name without her parents consent. The fake name was so her parents wouldn’t find her. To me that sets the stage for a very dangerous environment.    

  9. Derek K. Miller February 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

    My daughter turns 13 this week, and it has been her own decision to wait until her birthday to sign up for Facebook as a present to herself. She’s asked that her mother and I help her get accustomed to it once she’s joined. She already has a blog and a Twitter account, and emails regularly with her friends.

    She has pretty good instincts online in general, but we’ll keep on eye on what she’s up to as well, at least for a little while. I’m not worried so much about predators (which are a small risk in the scheme of things) as the potential social misunderstandings (and potential bullying) that can arise among teens in any context, Facebook included. Indeed, so far that is the only context in which we’ve had to intervene with her other online activities.

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