Facebook is considering changing their rules for preteens to have Facebook profiles legitimately. I disagree.
Facebook is no book or place for a preteen. Some parents may let their kids lie about their birthdates and set a bad example about rushing gratification. I know several 9 and 10 year olds who have accounts. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the current rule.
Some parents also let their teens host keggers for under agers in their homes. Some share their pot, their meth, and their illicit medications with their teens. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the rule for everyone to justify their bad choices.
I am not just writing from the viewpoint of an old grumpy mother. I’m writing with the perspective of bad experiences. The creeps in cyberworld require the judgment of an adult to manage. Teens can manage it with adult supervision but still sometimes find themselves in bad situations.
To allow a 9 or 10 year old to have a Facebook profile makes as much sense as it would to put them in the center of the town square holding a sign that says, “Hi. I’m 9 years old, and I would like to make new friends. Wanna talk?” Even if a parent is watching, the risks are too great.
With my own children, they got Facebook profiles on their 13th birthdays with the rule that their first 2 friends were Richard and me, and their third was a friend who’s also a prosecutor. When they asked why he had to be their friend too, I told them, “If you have to think twice before posting something a prosecutor might see, then you shouldn’t be posting it.”
As a youth leader and as a mother, I have seen bad experiences on Facebook that are just too hot to handle for under 13 year olds. I’ve seen a 15 year old boy who met an out-of-state predator in a cyber chat room. Their meeting later resulted in their becoming friends on Facebook, and the predator friending other boys in the same area. The predator was caught after I called parents and suggested they check their son’s online activities.
As a mother, I’ve also encountered at least 1 bad experience with my own teens. One of them received unsolicited, unwanted messages from a “friend of a friend” who revealed in what she sent that she was cyberstalking my children. We blocked the person. There was nothing explicit to her message. Nevertheless, her contact with under-age children was creepy at best and inappropriate at worst.
The groups, the pictures, and the viruses with almost-explicit images are too much to risk with an under 13 year old. Facebook is supposedly considering adding a layer of protection for adult supervision. I don’t buy it, and I absolutely, 100% do not recommend it.
Further, I’ve read they are going to let parents’ bank accounts be tied to their kids accounts. So if your 10 year old is playing Farmville and has access to your bank account, just imagine the shock when you open you bank statement and nearly fall over. Johnny and Susie were so excited with Facebook Farmville that they stocked their whole cyber barn with cyber livestock that isn’t real. But the charges to your account are real, and you get to pay the bill.
Then we will see news stories of parents appalled at what has happened.
Keep Facebook’s guidelines to age 13. That’s my bottom line recommendation. If they change it, I still strongly recommend parents not allow their preteens to have Facebook profiles.
In the Wild West, the bar on Main Street was no place for kids. Facebook isn’t a Kidbook either.