Much like politicians need to pull out of my vag, Facebook needs to back off of my 11-year-old. There were reasons the age for use was set at 13. Have those reasons changed so drastically over the years? They haven’t in my house. Our computer is in the dining room. There are only certain days, particular hours that our children are allowed to use the computer, and even then we can opt to say no. The 11-year-old does have an iPod Touch, but there are restrictions on that as well. It doesn’t go upstairs when it’s time for bed, for instance. Hand it over whenever I ask so that I can see to whom you’re talking, what video you’re watching. However, before you take me to be parent of the year, know that I must first admit to outright hypocrisy: I don’t want my child lying about her age on Facebook, yet I lied about her age for her to create a Gmail email account.
I could have gotten her an email address on Verizon that would have been attached to mine; it would have been known she is a minor. And yet I opted to allow her to be able to talk to her friends via email and/or instant message. I check the account for spam, make sure she’s not saying anything untoward about her fabulous mother who makes her sweep the dining room floor every night (sometimes twice because seriously, you didn’t see that chicken bone under your brother’s chair?). I said yes to the email because I know the allure of not wanting our kids to be out of the loop. At the same time, I don’t want the loop seeking her out. I want to think that allowing my child a “safe” Facebook account would be similar to the drama-less experience with the email account. Yet, I know it won’t be. It won’t.
Larry Magid at Forbes writes, “Whether we like it or not, millions of children are using Facebook, and since there doesn’t seem to be a universally effective way to get them off the service, the best and safest strategy would be to provide younger children with a safe, secure and private experience that allows them to interact with verified friends and family members without having to lie about their age.” I’m sorry, but is there no more universal word than “no”? A shake of the head transcends the richest language barriers; it is universally understood. And no, I am not being unrealistic.
Just say no, parents.
One of Mr. Magid’s headings is “Do it for the children.” Do what for the children? Let them continue to lose the ability to speak coherently, be comfortable in social situations where one has to actually speak rather than type, let alone type in incoherent code (Yes, yes, I know the code is only incoherent because I’m an old fuddy-duddy shortchanging children on fun.)? When do we teach them how to shake hands, make eye contact, be able to articulate their thoughts, even disagreeable ones, respectfully and face to face rather than only being direct when not directly confronted? Surely, that’s not Facebook’s job anymore than a teacher should be held accountable for a child who fails a test after not having had a good night’s sleep or breakfast. This is about parenting and being able to parent without giving in to “But Mooooom, everyone’s doing it.”
Just say no, parents.
This is essentially what it comes down to: Facebook is giving in to the whining. It begs the question: Where is the need for children under 13 to have access to Facebook? Outside of talking to friends and connecting with potentially distant relatives, where is the benefit? There is no educational (or social) benefit in playing online games (let alone ones that I might have to pay for). What is the value? What are they learning? How will they function in class when their minds are on what their next status post will be? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying every minute online needs to be educational. But, I’ve always viewed the computer as a tool on which to learn while also enjoying oneself. What are the children learning on Facebook? As far as I can tell, they’re learning how to take self portraits in bathroom mirrors in their underwear. They’re learning to call other kids names behind the “protection” of the computer screen. They’re learning to talk and write via shortcuts for words that, when they then try to write a paper for school, do not convert easily to actual, acceptable English.
I’ll tell you what I’ve learned: most of us lie about our happiness, lie about our bodies, lie about our success, lie about having actually showered today. Facebook is the Lair of Lies. This is not something I want to invite my child to do. Altering the age restriction will do nothing more than promote an already alarmingly high lack of direct communication.
I’m the parent. I’m saying no.
I apologize if I’m coming across as the “back in my day, sonny, we had to walk to school in the snow uphill both ways. You young whippersnappers don’t know the value of a handwritten, then mailed, letter.” Yet, is it so wrong to simply have our children connect with their friends at school, then (gasp!) not again until they return to school? What about the telephone? Is phoning grandma no longer an option since grandma knows how to Skype, has email, Twitter, Facebook, and an Instagram account? The constant reliance upon the immediate satisfaction that the “you’ve got mail” ding gives them offers no sense of what it means to be happy to speak to someone at school after the weekend. They’ve spoken to them all weekend long via handheld appendage.
Mr. Magid quotes a Wall Street Journal article that says lowering the age to 11 will “…help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue…” My child is more than part of an as yet, not fully tapped pool of users. The benefit of lowering the age of use to 11 benefits no one but Facebook from this untapped market. This is nothing more than a gateway to acceptance of tweens walking around with Juicy across their asses. I simply want to maintain my household as I see fit. It is easier for me, yes, that the restriction is 13; I can still say no, Facebook has an age requirement that you’ve not yet met. Certainly, even if I felt that at 13 my child still wasn’t ready for all that Facebook can be, I could continue to say no. If parents had specific rules and weren’t afraid to enforce those rules, children would understand that no means no. Sure, they would likely still push boundaries, but it would be easier on the parent if certain less than stellar stock market debuters would simply leave the age as is.
And no, I’m not disagreeing with the need for Facebook to lower its age requirements because I’d have to block my child from seeing my feed because sometimes I cuss. I am offended that you would suggest such. Wait, that was just my conscience? Oh, never mind her; she only uses Facebook to stalk her boyfriend from high school, watch videos that will likely give her computer an STD, and play Zynga games with “friends” she hasn’t otherwise spoken to since 1989.
What do you think? Is your under 13-year-old ready for a supposedly “safe” Facebook?