To repeat: The minimum age for Facebook is 13 but many parents are letting their children lie about their age and create Facebook pages. (Personally, I think 13 is still too young but check out my post from last week -- no need to bore you, especially since if you're reading this, you probably already agree.) Parents are being nagged to the point they'll give in. It's the old "But Everybody's On Facebook." And if we don't stop it soon, it will be completely true.
Next step is to think about solutions.
Will the alternatives be enough to get kids off Facebook? My super duper consultant, Catherine V. agreed to look at each one and weigh in. A popular and smart but empathetic 13-year old, Catherine knows what will fly and what won't. She hasn't let me down yet.
Catherine V. went through each site from the Common Sense list and told me whether girls and boys would use it (as opposed to only girls or only boys) and what ages she thinks they would appeal to. Here's what she has to say. This is important because to be a social network, it actually has to be social.
Take it away, Catherine:
My Secret Circle: Young girls ages 8 to 11
Yoursphere: Young boys and girls ages 9 to 12
FaceChipz: Young boys and girls ages 10 to 12
JitterFingers: Girls ages 11 to 12
Glogster: Girls ages 13 to 14
Posterous: Boys and girls ages 13 to 15
YourCause: Boys and girls ages 13 to 15
Ning: Boys and girls ages 14 to 16
think.mtv: Boys and girls ages 14 to 18
Blerp: Boys and girls ages 15 to 18
"My favorite website was think.mtv because it was a website that teenage boys and girls could use, and MTV is already a known name. Since it is a known name, it would catch on faster, and it is basically the same as any other social networking site. Personally, I would use this website, and I think many of my friends would. It is also a "trendy" website and up-to-date with this generation.
The worst website was My Secret Circle. It's not that it's bad, it's just I don't think I or any or my friends would ever use it at this age. It's more of a childrens website, and I think it's actually a great website, just for a much younger age."
You may want to take a few minutes and check these out yourself. If there's one you like more than another, talk to the other parents in the class. Get everyone involved in a social network that will provide privacy, fun and low risk for Cyber bullying. But remember, the best antidote to cyber bullying is to first and foremost talk to your kids about your own house rules on how to treat others. Tell them to expect the same from their friends. They won't get this by osmosis. You actually have to make a point of it.
Thanks Catherine V. for doing some of the work for parents!