Kids are asking to be on Facebook younger and younger these days. Although some people think these twin babies are talking about the cobra escaping from the Bronx Zoo, I think it's about Facebook. It may sound far-fetched but I also think parents letting their nine year-olds have a Facebook account is far-fetched -- and it's happening.
Hello, people. The minimum age for Facebook is 13 thanks to COPPA, the children's privacy act. And in my opinion, 13 is still too young. Can 13 year-olds really handle it when a "friend" online doesn't act like a friend?
Newsflash. Kids are not only going on too young but they're creating multiple accounts so no one can look over their shoulder. This falls into the same category as when your teen says "I promise, I'm at the library" or "I'm not going to drink at all at that party, but don't wait up for me because I'm going to spend the night at a friend's."
(Just so you know, I love kids and I don't think they're all sneaky but we have to get real.)
Anti-social media you ask? Not at all. I actually think it's really cool and can help a child feel connected to others but it has to be age-appropriate.
This brings me to Yoursphere.
Since I'm told by it's founder, Mary Kay Hoal, that 87% of the kids on Yoursphere find it themselves, your kids may already know about it. When I heard that Mary Kay, a mother of 5, took matters into her own hands and built a safe social media site strictly for kids -- as young as 5 but not older than 17 -- I had to check it out for myself. (Note: The average age of the kids on Yoursphere is 11 or 12.)
Once I did, I had to agree with the bottom line in a recent PC Magazine review:
If you're looking for a kid-centered social network that has all the features of a Swiss Army Knife but none of the sharp edges, make Yoursphere your choice.
So before you get worn down by your 10 year-old begging you to go on Facebook because "everybody is," check out Yoursphere. By creating "spheres" of interest, kids get to pursue their hobbies and learn how to interact with others in a safer way than social media sites meant for adults. (Note: I say safer because there is no guarantee that kids won't trip over something that another child has said that is not age-appropriate, but the folks at Yoursphere have gone the extra mile to make it as safe as possible. When I went through it, I felt it was fun and respectful. As parents, though, we need to be going online with our young kids when we can and of course, keep the computer in a public area in the house.)
By the way, you'll thank me for telling you about Yoursphere for Parents. Fantastic resource that helps keep parents up to date on the pros and cons of the online world.
It doesn't do the site justice to say that it's like having training wheels, but it's the training wheels I think kids AND adults need. Kids have to learn how to navigate and build judgment and parents need a tool to help them start to build that judgment. Online safety is a little about technology and a lot about maturity.
So one of the twins is right, "Brother, are you crazy? We're babies. Facebook will make us cry."