Anyway, the official minimum age to have a Facebook page is 13. And I still think that's way too young. Why? When things are going ok between friends, it's a fun thing. But when friends become enemies-- which can happen overnight -- things can get said and "shared" that are so hurtful that there's no telling what kind of damage can be done. Most kids don't understand the privacy settings...and many parents don't know either. Since we don't have netiquette classes in most schools, kids also don't understand the ramifications of posting compromising photos or saying inappropriate things.
And worst of all, they're not going to tell you when things are spinning out of control on Facebook because they're afraid you'll take it away. Kids at that age are not prepared to handle the superhighway of emotions that Facebook can create.
But for every parent struggling with their child's pleas to be on Facebook because "EVERYBODY's on Facebook", Common Sense Media came up with a few alternatives.
Just to make sure these "alternatives" have some potential to actually be used INSTEAD of Facebook, I've asked a consultant to try them out and let me know if she and her friends would ever consider switching. Catherine V. is a very cool, talented well-liked eighth grader who is also a Facebook user (legitimately). As a matter of fact, she took me for a tour of how kids use the site and it was really enlightening. Most kids really do sign up with the intention to share interests and good fun but during the tour we did stumble across some kids using it to joke about teachers, etc. Not a good idea, kids. Facebook is not anonymous.
After a preliminary look last night, here's what Catherine said:
Hello, it's your consultant!!!!
I took a look at the alternatives for Facebook you sent me. Most of them would appeal only to younger girls, maybe up to 12 years old. The ones near the bottom of the page were really interesting, and I think a lot of my friends would actually use websites like that. I will post the link to my Facebook page and maybe word will spread around!!! The only thing is, Facebook is well known and it would be hard to make another website just as popular. But even so, the websites were unique and seem a lot safer than Facebook, so parents would maybe let their child get a "FaceChipz" instead of a Facebook. These websites seem fun and safe, so I could definetely see them as an alternative for Facebook. It's just a matter of a certain trend catching on...but I see a lot of potential in these sites!
I trust Catherine. I think parents can say, "NO" to Facebook but "YES" to social networks. What do you think?
I'll get more specific about each site in the next post.