Friday, June 25, 2010

To Facebook or not to Facebook?

Anyone who knows me, knows that this question surely couldn't be about me, as I have heartily embraced Facebook and espouse it's benefits regularly. No, this question applies to my daughter, and others in the "under 13" set.

Facebook's policies state that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to have an account on their site. Many parents do allow their children to have an account at a younger age, but in order to do that, they must lie about their date of birth. We actually allowed Big Sister to have an account a year or so ago because many of her friends around the country (and out of the country) already had accounts, and it's a convenient way to keep in touch with everyone all from one place.

Still, the whole thing didn't sit right with me. We live in an age where cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying have become more common place, and where we tell teens not to misrepresent themselves as being older because it can get them into trouble. I felt that we were sending our daughter a mixed message about internet safety at a time in her life when we need to be clear about our expectations for her behavior. Why should it be okay to lie about your age to deceive Facebook when you're 10 years old, but not okay in other situations? What it boiled down to was that I didn't want to condone lying on the internet in order to access places where my child doesn't belong.

Yes, I know we can adjust all her privacy settings and restrict who has access to her information. I am aware how fabulous Facebook is as a tool for kids to keep in touch with friends and relatives who are otherwise more difficult to be in contact with. I see how kids can be wonderfully articulate in writing their status updates. All of these benefits don't outweigh for me the blurring of the rules I feel we should set for our kids as they start exploring and making a place for themselves on the internet. I don't feel that it's unreasonable to require our kids to follow the policies and terms of use of an internet site, and I certainly don't want to set a precedent that sometimes lying is okay if it gets you into a place you don't belong.

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