I’m taking a deep breath as I begin creating this post with the knowledge that I may lose a “real” friend or two in what I’m about to write. I know this from first hand experience because I’ve already lost one “friend” over the same subject nearly a year ago. But here goes….it’s my opinion, shaped after years in professional communications with the past several of those spent immersed in the online world of communications and social media.
So here it is: I don’t want to be friends with your 8 year old on Facebook. Here’s why:
1. The Rules: Facebook states that you are supposed to be 13 years old in order to have your own account. I realize many people think rules were made for others and not for them but it’s handy to have a rule to point to when taking a position.
Granted, I know Mark Zuckerburg wants to lower the Facebook age limit (who wouldn’t when they’re selling advertising?) I did come across this excellent article from Psychology Today while researching this blog post that should help parents of tweens make informed decisions for their child as they contemplate them creating a Facebook presence.
2. Lies and Damn Lies: If you ignore Rule #1 above then you are teaching your child to create falsehoods from the start. (As you know, Facebook asks for a date of birth and the child obviously can’t use their real DOB.) OK so it may be just a “teeny white lie” but….
3. Cognitive Reasoning: I am amazed at the number of adult friends I have on Facebook who fall for some of the scams I’ve seen going around (remember the one about Osama Bin Laden?) Well, if adults fall for these hoaxes, how easy would it be to mislead a child? Furthermore do you recall Piaget’s thoughts on logic from your Psyche. 101 class? He says children really begin to think logically around the age of 12.
4. Not everybody’s your friend: Where do I start? Anyone seen the news lately? If you have then you know what I’m talking about. My heart still aches for the parents of the eight year old who walked seven blocks to his day camp in New York only to meet his killer along the route.
5. There are bad viruses and bad people out there: It’s true. I have seen them both but I’d just as soon shield your 8 year old from them. Heaven help us if we should accidentally pass on or connect a child to a virus. Parents, in case you’ve had your head in the sand be sure to check out this article Should I Cancel My Kids’ Facebook Account?
6. Should kids really know all my business? I’ve shared this thought with friends who feel the same way. We have nothing to hide but do you always want a little kid in the room while you’re having a conversation with adults?
7. I love kids! Although some of you may think otherwise, I actually love children very much and am a parent myself. That’s why I’m writing this post. Better to err on the side of caution and keep all of our kids safe.
Finally, I had been thinking about writing this when I ran across that Psychology Today post above about the all-knowing world we now live in. What the author says to tweens and teens is spot on in my opinion. But let’s start thinking even a few years younger as little Johnny and Suzy create the profile that will follow them the rest of their lives.