Saturday, February 12, 2011
Why Is 10, 11 or 12 too young to be on Facebook?
Isn't it obvious? It's not about giving our kids permission to do something that all of their "friends" are doing, it's giving them permission to do something that may be hurtful. I'll agree, that some kids may never experience a problem but you wouldn't give them a glass of beer and say, "Well there's a good chance they'll never be alcoholics." I know this sounds extreme but it's really not.
The one statistic that blows my mind is that 84% of kids that are bullied online don't tell an adult. That means that unless you supervise like a hawk (and not many parents have the time for that), you may not know it when something has been said to hurt them...or if they've said something that might hurt another. The damage is done in seconds. Kids have a hard enough time in middle school navigating the ever changing landscape of friendship. It is sophisticated stuff to do this online.
Do such young kids need it? No. And if your answer is yes because a.) everyone in their class has it and he/she feels left out than I have a suggestion. It might be a good idea to talk to the other parents and decide together that at least some of you won't let them. Of if b.) my child is shy and has a hard time making friends and this makes it easier for them, I understand because shyness is painful -- but this may not be the solution. The old-fashioned way of helping them make one or two friends outside of school might be a safer, more long-lasting way to go.
What's the risk? Check out Ryan Halligan's story...or Phoebe Prince...or the many other tragic suicides of kids who were being hurt online and couldn't take it anymore.
In all honesty, I think 13 is too young, too. And something I really don't understand is why as parents do we give ourselves one more thing to worry about? My youngest son didn't go on Facebook until he was almost 17. It was his decision. He's a social guy and has a lot of friends but for some reason he didn't want it. It got to the point that he felt like he was missing out on knowing about events, parties, things going on in general so he now has an account. He's happy with it and it's added something to his life. I'm not anti-Facebook but I'm very grateful for the many nights of peaceful sleep I got because I wasn't worried about his online life. I know I'm lucky because he wasn't badgering me for it but I know what that's like, too. I have four kids and know how hard it is to say no.
Not that it counts for much, but if you do say no, you have a fan in me. I would be happy to hear from you and if I had the money, I'd throw you a parade or send you to DisneyWorld. At least there, you could let your kids just be kids.