I don’t have a Facebook page nor do I plan on getting one. However, my ten-year old wants a page and has shown me his friends Facebook pages but I am not sure that a Facebook page is appropriate for a ten year old. Further, none of his friends Facebook pages are private. If I ever decide, and at this point I will not, for my son to have one, his page would be private. So, how young is too young for a Facebook page?
According to research studies, even though the age requirement for Facebook and MySpace is 13, more and more children under age 13 are using these social networks. Further, most children under age 13 have their parents permission to create a Facebook page. However, I am sure I agree that a ten year old is mature enough to be using social networking sites so I told my son to ask me when he was fifteen. Maybe, I am turning into my mother but I want to be able to protect my children from the internet world for as long as I can. I have only recently let him join ToonTown and allowed him to visit YouTube and I constantly watch him while he is online.
The other issue is that even teens do not realize the real world consequences of the virtual world so how is a ten year old supposed to? The risks of social networking could be high especially for immature minds. There are college recruiters and potential employers scanning these pages to find out about potential students and employees, and while my son is probably too young for me to worry about this, it still makes sense to be concerned. Further, downloading applications is a hazard because apps can give you anything from sports updates to weather reports and even proposition your Facebook friends for sex. What about online predators and the fact that our children do not yet understand the concept of privacy?
Children at age ten and even thirteen do not understand the consequences nor do they understand the concept of social responsibility on the internet. Moreover, they do not understand emotional safety, physical safety, and the safety of their reputations. Facebook is an adult-oriented social network and there are social networks out there for children ages 10 to 15 such as YourSphere and FaceChipz. For children as young as age 5, there is a kid-friendly version of Facebook called KidSwirl.
There is a book by John Robinson titled “Anyone You Want Me to Be” that tells the story of the first internet serial killer. Anyone can pretend to be anything on the internet and teens and young children are particularly vulnerable especially if they send out personal information and photographs of themselves. As parents, it is our responsibility to know what our children are doing and to set limits. Also, it is important to talk to them without scaring them about the potential outcomes of their actions.
What are you thoughts on children and social networking? How young is too young for Facebook, MySpace and the variety of other adult-oriented social networking sites?