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.
I’m with you. There’s a long list of reasons – even more than you touched on – that kids shouldn’t be on Facebook.
My number one reason? There’s something creepy about middle-aged men that you don’t know in real life friending your 10-year-old daughter. There’s no reason for it. And as a guy of that age myself… I won’t friend children.
Thanks so much for your comments Daniel. And yes, creepy is right!
As someone who uses FB mostly for business, I agree that I don’t want to friend children. And anyway, I think kids learn and explore and grow better when they are playing outside and not in front of the computer and TV for many hours a day.
I do have friends for whom FB is primarily a way to keep up with their kids and grandkids – and if they want to have pint-sized friends, I understand it and don’t judge it. But for me, it’s not the purpose or interest.
Thanks Sue for your comments. In adult life we end up living in front of the computer don’t we?
As a parent of a 10yo with a FaceBook, I disagree in some points. Do I want creepy 40yo I don’t know friending her…of course not. But I do want her to learn how to safe online and protect herself in a virtual space, while she’s still young enough to listen to me.
Thanks for writing Brook. I appreciate your comments and knew this post would stir up some lively debate!
I agree 100% – Especially with points 3 & 6. I love kids as well, but there are some things I post that I really don’t want an 8 year old, or even a 15 year old to read. There are limits, as there should be. I would not take my friend’s 8… year old child out to dinner for a “girls night” and talk to her about certain events of my day. Why would I do that on the internet? I hope parents of these kids understand. It’s nothing against the children OR the parents. It’s just part of following the rules and protecting the children from who knows what. Also, I was pondering about a status update this morning that involved my children and Santa….which would probably not be a very good thing for an 8 year old who still believes to read. Very good blog!
Thanks Cindy. I think your girls night out analogy and its adult conversation is a great example.
I agree with your points entirely. The first point, the fact that Facebook requires users to be 13 years old prompts children to lie about their age in order to register, which doesn’t strike me as the best way to start social media, or anything else in life for that matter. Of course, as the Psychology Today article you linked to points out, most kids are asking their parents for early access.
Yes they indeed are but something about the age of eight that just seems rather tender to me. What’s wrong with letting kids be innocent for just a few more years? They will grow up fast enough. And even if parents *think* they are supervising an 8 year old at the computer on a social network…are they really? Thanks for writing Bob.
Man am I glad I’m the father of an adult. Of course she didn’t start that way, but she is not an 8 year old in this world.
And … what you talk about Mel is not just a problem with FB or limted to 8 year olds. I’ve got several requests pending on LinkedIn right now. I can’t figure out who the hell these people are and why they think they should be “linked” to me. So, of course I will blow the request away.
Of course, an 8 year old cannot properly make that call for themselves. It makes me wonder if 13 years is too low a threshhold. Regardless, thanks for your post.
Jeff, I am talking about just the kind of cognitive thinking that you mentioned. Decision making and thought about whether someone is a good fit or not to be your “friend” or LI connection. You and I can make those decisions based on years of people reading.
I am so glad you wrote this post. I agree with every point you have made and have several more that I could add on. The internet is a much more scary place than people realize. I even feel that the age limit should be older than 13 after seeing what certain teenagers post on there. Great post Mary Ellen!
Thanks so much Jessica for your comments. This topic has really sparked discussion…offline as well!
Thank you for having the courage to write this post. Honestly, it never even occured to me that some parents let small children have Facebook accounts. I agree with everything you said. My 6 year old is a very tech savvy little girl but I wouldn’t trust her with her own Facebook account. It’s hard enough educating teens on this stuff; elementary school kids just need to stick with playing outside and being kids.
Tiffany I appreciate your encouragement. Just wait a year or two and you’ll get a first-hand look at what I’m talking about with some of your child’s friends!
I’m so glad you wrote this, Mary Ellen! As a psychologist who works with kids and teens in addition to the adults I serve, I’m really concerned about what I hear even from smart, savvy teens in terms of their behavior on FB and other social media. Giving out their phone numbers to people them meet on line (“Oh I know it is a 13 year old boy and not a creepy old man–he sent me his photo,”) hiding their usage from parents, posting provocative photos, writing about their sexual preferences, etc. Parents: please start snooping into your child’s social media account. You won’t like what you find. They do it even when they have given you their password and know you will be checking.
Thanks for your comments Linda. Your perspective as a psychologist is down-right scary!
Great post, Mary Ellen. I completely agree that children should not be on Facebook, and I especially agree that random adults (non-family) should not have access to those children. It is very scary to think about what could happen, and the problem will only get worse. Thanks for starting this very important conversation.
Thank you for your comments and for standing by my controversial viewpoint.
I had no idea that 8 year olds were on Facebook. I have heard some bad stories from other parents and am shocked at what goes on. Thanks MaryEllen for educating me even more!!
Thanks Renee. Yes, it’s true!