Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dear Parents, Why Do You Let Your Young Kids Have Facebook Accounts?

After witnessing what is happening to so many kids online, I wanted to write a really preachy post about not allowing young kids to go on Facebook. Instead, I would like a parent to enlighten me on why they think it's ok.

I've had a really bad couple of days, including not sleeping, because I've become aware of "nice" kids being totally cruel online. The kids I'm referring to are 12. The minimum age for Facebook is 13. In my opinion that's way too young, too, but letting kids under the age of 13 have an account is telling them to lie.

I know all the excuses. "My child wore me down. EVERYONE is on Facebook. He/She is a nice kid and can handle it. He/She has nice friends. It's cute."

Parents, get your head out of the sand. When you finish reading this post, go "friend" your child or somehow get access to their account and check it out. You may not like what you see. If you don't like what you see, make it a teachable moment. Kids need to be supervised online. That's the bottom line.

Cyberbullying is NOT about technology. It's about building judgment. If you see stuff you don't like, take it down and don't let them go back until you feel they have the maturity to handle social networking. I know what you may be thinking. "They may just go over to a friends house and go online. They'll be impossible to live with. I feel so bad for them because they're the ONLY kid in 7th grade that's not on it."

If you don't think it's a problem, you haven't been looking hard enough. And if it's not a problem today, it may be one tomorrow. Kids do not know how to handle tough social situations in writing. They don't know enough to stop before they click.

My analogy is that internet safety is like building a pool in your back yard. You build it because it's fun but you wouldn't let kids use it unless you give them swimming lessons, have them wear flotation devices if they don't swim, have rules, buy an alarm and build a fence around it. Same thing with the internet.

Although I said I didn't want to write a preachy post, I just did. Couldn't help it. What I saw this week is a recipe for ruining childhoods.

I started with a question and I'll end with a question. Parents, why would you let your kids drown?


  1. At the end of last summer I agreed to let my daughter have a Facebook account, (she's 10) but only if she checked it when I was present. None of her friends were on it yet, because she's so young, so she quickly bored of it, forgot the password, and that was the end of it. It satisfied a bit of curiosity for her. She realized she had better things to do and moved on.

    When she gets into middle school, it might be a different story, but I am prepared to say that I have changed my mind and will not allow her to go back on until she's 13. I regret having let her lie about her age. Parents make mistakes, too, and if you recognize you have, it's better to fess up than let the situation continue. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it.

    Thank you for the great article!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment profession direction! I think parents like you are heroes. This is a hard, imperfect job with so many things to keep up with. It's exhausting and that's why we need each other. I love it when I hear parents admit to mistakes because it makes me feel like I can admit to mine, too, and somehow that will help someone else. I also love it because you obviously have your child's interest as top priority and not necessarily the need to be right. You're an inspiration!!