How young is too young for Facebook?

Posted on May 24, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Facebook Baby

One of the focuses in class this week is today’s youth and their seemingly innate proficiency with new media of all kinds. While I consider myself fairly tech savvy, a recent Xbox lesson from my 13-year-old nephew proved that my hand-eye coordination lags woefully behind that of today’s teens.

For these kids, technology is second-nature because it has always been a part of their lives. But are there categories of emerging media that should be reserved until their maturity is as developed as their joystick skills?

Mark Zuckerberg thinks not. The Facebook controversy du jour is whether kids under the age of 13 (the current limit as determined by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) should be allowed to use the popular social networking site.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg

Acknowledging there is no easy answer and admitting I have no children, I lean toward agreeing with Zuckerberg. As Gawker.com blogger Adrian noted, an estimated 7.5 million underage kids are already posting status updates, “liking” pages, and playing Farmville on a daily basis. They are already there and we can’t keep them out. Adrian suggests focusing instead on making Facebook a more kid-friendly environment. For example, allow and encourage kids to use fake names to make them less vulnerable to child predators and bullies.

If used for good instead of evil, Facebook has the potential to be a conduit for 21st century pen pals, teaching kids geography and politics, as well as the valuable lesson that we are all more alike than we are different. A Teachers.net article touts the many educational benefits of social media, pointing out that kids today are multi-taskers, and so we need to mirror that environment in the classroom. By incorporating new media, including social networks, into schools, children will remain engaged and be more excited about learning.

Are there dangers? Sure. Does my childless status influence my opinion? Without a doubt. Still, I feel the bus has left the station on this particular issue, and there’s no turning it around. At this point, we are best served by encouraging responsible Facebook use with proper parental guidance.

What do YOU think? Take my poll and comment below. I especially look forward to hearing the perspectives of parents and kids!

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11 Responses to “How young is too young for Facebook?”

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Part of my job is to hire staff. I must say that the lack of reading, writting and critical thinking skills has declined. I believe that our young people don’t need to think. Media and technology, I believe, is holding our kid’s back.

Thanks for the great comment, Ellen. Technology certainly has changed education. For example, math skills aren’t as necessary when you have excel spreadsheets. I do wonder though, how much of the decline is the fault of new media and how much is the owed to the school system.

Thanks for posting!

I don’t think I’ll let my kids on facebook until they are 13. That said, I know that I’ve thought many things that I would do as a parent and have changed my mind, so time will tell. It’s hard to set a specific age because each child is different. Some children are more mature than others and can handle the responsibility. One problem is that eventhough you can put limits on time and the people they friend…you can’t control what their friends are posting. My oldest is about 5 years away from using facebook and there may be something new by then anyway:)

Good point, Becky. With the speed at which media changes, there’s no telling what will be available and what will be popular five years from now.

Firsthand experience with this has proved to be more challenging than I originally thought. In the early teen years(especially just entering high school) there is more opportunity for drama among kids fighting for attention and their place on the social ladder. FB brings this to a new level. Although I often find things out secondhand (by reading my daughter’s posts) I also can guage her feelings and attitude where I may not otherwise by just receiving the standard “fine” answer when asked how was school/your day. As with anything in life, FB moderation and a little supervision can enhance quality of life between parent and child providing the communication basics are in place.

I think 13 is still young to join facebook. In a perfect world it would be the perfect tool but that’s not where we live! I almost checked the box with yes with parental supervision and permission but lets face it, parents don’t want to parent anymore. If you can stick your kids in front of the tv,computer or video game the they are occupied/safe and you have free time to do whatever! I really struggled when my 13 yr old came and asked for one. I reluctantly said yes. I was afraid of it becoming another tool for bullying from his so called friends. You only have to friend one wrong person and then you are at their mercy as for the tone of your page. You cannot control what another person writes on your wall. Lets face it kids can be cruel and most follow suit! There is a page associated with facebook called formspring and you can post anonymously. My son ended up getting one and the mean things that kids wrote blew my mind ….needless to say we got rid of that quickly. I know it is the new telephone but let face it party lines had the same problems in their day and where are they now?

As a middle school teacher, many of my students had FB pages that were not “protected” at all – all info for the world to see. As I told them, someday they will want to get a job. While for me, it has allowed me to reconnect with cousins and keep up with friends, I think young people view it somewhat differently. Also, some of the APPs (ask/answer a question?) are inappropriate as I saw one of my student’s questions on a neighbor’s FB. I do not “friend” kids purely our of fear of repercussions. I do NOT agree about allowing them or encouraging them to participate with false names because where is the moral/ethics in being someone else. One article a student wrote in the high school paper was the fact that kids are texting each other as they sit next to each other and is the oral/verbal skills going to be lost. Listen to a student answer a phone in your house and note the lack of skills in this regard. Yes media is in the lives of young people but that does not mean we should allow it to dominate their time.

I think it’s incumbent upon Facebook to provide parental controls so parents can control the level of interaction the child has. Like it or not children live in a far greater technologically advanced world than we could have imagined as little as five years ago. In prohibiting children under thirteen from social media entirely, can socially retard the child’s development. A parent cannot abdicate their role as an educator just because the child goes to school. Social media can be used as a tool to learn life lessons. The parent must continue to monitor the use because of the inherent dangers that come with any social interaction. My fifteen year old complains that we are spying on him. The answer is yes we are! Don’t like it? we can take you off facebook. Besides reading my three children’s facebook pages reminds me what a big wonderful world we live in.

Thank you Jim, Tricia and Patricia for your valuable insights. It’s great to get the perspective of parents and a teacher.

This is such a great question. In my personal opinion, I feel that kids under 13 are too young for social media sites, especially ones like Facebook and MySpace. Perhaps my opinion is slightly skewed because I was in college before these sites became popular.

However, I know if I had kids I would definitely not want them on these sorts of sites and if I did I would make sure I monitored their use of them.

Thanks for the comment, Amy! It seems that lots of parents agree with you that monitoring is important with social media sites.


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