Tor Constantino swears he’s not a prude—he just doesn’t think his teen and preteen are ready for Facebook.
I’m a parent of two daughters ages 11 and 13 respectively. Neither of them has a Facebook page—and they won’t in the near term.
While Facebook itself has a policy that requires anybody with an FB page to agree that they are at least 13 years old—I think 13 is too young for a child to have their own FB page.
Ironically, I know neighbors and colleagues whose children are younger than 10 and have personal pages on the world’s largest social media site—in direct violation of Facebook’s own policy. Those parents claim it’s a harmless diversion that they actively monitor to keep track of what their kids are doing.
Regardless of how vigilant a parent might be, FB offers no parental control mechanism, and there’s no “sanitized” version of Facebook with which I could comfortably allow my kids to engage.
I realize that Facebook has high-privacy settings and some security limits you can set to exclusively connect with family members and relatives who live far away—but there are better technology options for kids to stay in touch with geographically dispersed family than Facebook.
On a daily basis, content gets pushed onto newsfeeds of my “friends”—and most of those people aren’t intending to share that information with minors, so there’s usually no attempt at screening or moderating.
In fact, over the past 48 hours on the collective newsfeed of my 1,100+ friends I’ve seen the following:
- Multiple instances of the f-bomb and other swearing;
- Photos of people who were drunk;
- Sexually suggestive images and nudity;
- News stories and corresponding imagery that were excessively violent.
As a parent, I would never intentionally expose my children to any of that type of content. In fact, if most of the content I referenced above was in a movie—that movie would be “R” rated.
To me, that’s “adult” content that my kids shouldn’t have to be exposed to as minors.
I know that kids are being exposed to adult content and concepts at an ever younger age and faster pace, but I believe my role as a parent is to act as a gatekeeper in regards to what content gets pushed to them and what channels they can draw from. I’m certain that our kids may have heard and seen worse on the bus to school—but that’s still not reason enough to convince me to let our kids access social media in our home.
And as far as the counter argument that restricting Facebook access will stunt them socially, I say prove it.
Our kids are actively engaged in offline activities in school, youth group, athletic leagues….etc. There is simply no proof whatsoever that online social engagement is better and more healthful to a developing teen or preteen than offline interaction and “real-life” social engagement.
To make the point a different way, when we travel on a trip, the suitcases that my wife and I carry are much too big and heavy for a child to carry. In the exact same way, much of the FB content is simply too much for a child to healthfully process and understand.
Furthermore, I haven’t even addressed the risk of abduction a minor might face if they have a social media presence where they nonchalantly discuss their whereabouts or schedule. So as far as my kids are concerned, I only see risk and downside associated with them having a social media presence.
Perhaps I’m being overly protective, but when it comes to my children, I’d rather take the risk that they think I’m being mean and keep them off Facebook than needlessly risk their innocence or safety.
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