Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

In The Economist magazine’s June 9, 2012 issue there’s a short piece on page 18 entitled: “Facebook and children: Let the nippers network”. You should be able to read it at this link: http://www.economist.com/node/21556578  I will be quoting from this article in my blog post unless otherwise indicated.

The article can be boiled down to what it says at the start of the second paragraph: “There are two options. Facebook can either try harder to prevent children from joining, or it can let them in, but with safeguards.”  This is the new frontier for most of us parents, the age of social networking via cyberspace.  At a time when many of us are becoming parents for the first time and just barely catching our breath as we realized the responsibility of raising these boys and girls to be the adults of the future–we’re struck with a very real concern regarding what age is deemed appropriate for a child to begin interacting socially on the internet.

“Social networking does not cause cancer. There is no compelling reason why children should not socialise with each other online.  What is worrying is that those on Facebook  today are treated as if they were adults.”

While this statement has truth to it in its logical argument, I’m afraid it’s lacking the deeper problem that should be glaringly obvious.  Just because a child can use the technology and can respond/communicate on a social network online doesn’t mean it’s right for them to do unfettered or unsupervised.

This may seem like a leap of a correlation to make, however, this is eerily the same argument we face when discussing ad nauseam as to when is the right age for youngsters to engage in sexual activity.  So what if their bodies are physically able to engage starting from 10-14 years old, does that mean they should be allowed to carry on as if it’s their deserved rite of passage? Oh, but if we give them condoms and pills, that should take care of them just fine from preventing unwanted pregnancies–nevermind how this early sexual behavior may interfere with their physical, mental and emotional development.

“Far better to let children openly join Facebook and create a safer environment for them to socialise in.”

Understandably, we all understand that as long as we have rules there are those who will break them.  The response to the age requirement for alcohol consumption is to have those who will attain illegal IDs.  The current trend for those under-13s on Facebook is that they can enroll anyway when they lie about their age in the form.  But the notion that we should just “let children” go ahead and do Facebook anyways as long as it’s “safe” is preposterous.

Q: What Is Safe About The Internet? A: NOTHING

Here’s the reality: you are the parent/guardian of your child(ren), therefore you are the most powerful gatekeeper when it comes to all the gateway rites of passage for your fledgling humans.  I don’t expect Zuckerburg and his people at Facebook to be the shepherd of the social pasture online for our kids.  That sentiment extends to any of these social networking sites.

The fact remains that we are still learning lessons today about what has happened to us since most of us came of age with integrating usage of the World Wide Web in our personal and professional lives.  It’s aggravating  to witness this hasty resignation attitude reflected in The Economist and other publications when it comes to the idea of children participating in social networking.

One more note on the internet: please keep in mind that no matter what your “settings” are, NOTHING is private when you post on the internet. Consider that when you put photos or written word onto the internet in any form, it’s as if you just submitted them to the marquee at Times Square in New York City. Please think about this seriously in regards to your children-whether it is you or them posting such things.

Nightmare Fodder: “Facebook and other social networks already have millions of vulnerable, clandestine underage users. It is time to bring them into the light.”

Why do we feel that we have no relationship with our children after they hit 5 years old?  Statements like the above disturb my heart’s fabric because I don’t understand how it is that there are 10 year olds who are participating in social networking unbeknownst to their parents/caregivers while they have hardly cut their physical teeth in face-to-face contact with their peers and others.

Again, I admit that I wrestle within over my love-hate relationship with the media technology that our global society has exploded with since I was born.  At the same time, I also recognize that there is not a quick and decisive answer to this social networking debate.  We are on the ground floor of learning about it ourselves and how it affects us all, including our children.  The question you and I must ask is what is best for our child(ren) as individuals and that will be the start of finding what “light” it is we want them to be in.

R.V.S.Bean

Facebook Phenomenon: Facing It

FACEBOOK PHENOMENON

In the past week or so, I’ve read and seen a couple things regarding the Facebook phenomenon as I see it. If you missed the CNBC piece on Facebook entitled “Facebook Obsession” you can look up more information on it at http://www.cnbc.com/id/39618344/
In our local paper here, The Palm Beach Post, on February 4th there was an article printed entitled “Teen Crisis: To friend or unfriend Mom and Dad?” by Tracy Correa of with McClatchy Newspapers that can be seen at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/a-teens-tough-call-should-i-friend-mom-1231753.html?cxtype=rss_news
It is amazing how Facebook has infiltrated our lives—of course, I am speaking about those who have signed onto Facebook as there are many who have chosen not to.

New Social Strand

Perhaps it’s the frenetic pace of live that we all collectively sense we are undergoing that makes a social networking program like Facebook alluring to use daily. I recall there was/is Friendster and MySpace but Facebook certainly seems to have gained much more popularity for a variety of reasons. One may be that socially-geared programs before it allowed for lessons to be learned in terms of being widely user-friendly. Second, many businesses have picked up on the advantage of signing up with a program like Facebook because of how it easily spreads the word to potential customers and allows for free or low-cost advertising.

World Wide Café Setting

I personally was one of the reluctant ones to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. It is well-documented in my statements on the internet and in my circle of family and friends that I distrust the rampant use of technology for sharing things like our financial information, consumer transactions and social networking through programs like Facebook or even a Google email account. Yet, ever the cautious hypocrite, I ended up on Facebook partly because I had just transitioned to a new season in my life as a first-time mother and CEO of the home (i.e. homemaker). After I got through the initial awkwardness of having a “facebook page” of my own, I felt like I was logging onto an international café every time I put in my password.

Mobile Café

The other feature that put Facebook in such a public forum was that somehow, sometime along the way, it found its way to applications on mobile phones. Before the catch phrase was “smart phone” and “apps”, you could not only log on your Google, Hotmail MSN or Yahoo email accounts, you could add Facebook on that refresh application option. It’s so easy to check on your “Newsfeed” on Facebook in your phone during the day. With a click you can “Like” or “Dislike” something or even go as far as to comment on something one of your colleagues put as their status.

Good for Us?

I still treasure a note that is sent through the now archaically-termed “snail mail” as I send my own hand-written sentiments to those I hold dear in this life. However, as texting was the new direct way to communicate without interrupting someone’s day too much, Facebook also serves as a non-confrontational but nice-casual way of saying hello or posting information that is either helpful or directed to a specific person or cause. For most adults, (ironic that Facebook was initially started for college students only), I think Facebook is like that corner of the playground we would all hang out at to shoot the breeze when were experiencing the waning years of our adolescence and we just wanted to bond through dialogue.

Facebook Fallout and Fallacy

The flip-side of Facebook’s social revolution is its effect on those in the college age range and younger. If you happen to read the above article link or have read something similar, it is increasingly obvious that many pre-teens and teenagers are now logged on to social networking programs like Facebook and find it to be an easier way of hiding their social experimentation or growth. This is a tricky, perilous predicament for both the youth and the parents thereof. Every generation has tried to hide their dalliances into adulthood from their parents—I’m not going to argue that recurring fact. But, that doesn’t mean that parents should just stand by and actively allow their minor-aged children to engage on Facebook or a site similar to it. The ramifications of posting our personal messages on social sites or simple email accounts are just beginning to show how they be a negative on our transactions later in life like when a graduate is seeking a new job. I would need to write another article posting altogether to pick apart why parents should just grit their teeth and be temporarily “disliked” for banning their children from this sort of unchaperoned internet social networking.

Future of Facebook?

I’m not a computer engineer, although I do have family and friends who are in touch with the waves of technology washing over our planet and they do share with me that there are always newer and better things ahead. Facebook definitely seems to have a hold on the 20s. 30s and 40s age groups out there and perhaps with that active group following and as long as those who run the company keep reinventing their social wheel—they’ll stick around in a Google-like fashion. Nevertheless, I still trust in the human connection as being not based solely on the screen(s) that I use to tap into a website, blog, email account or social networking website: we all need consistent care in other areas of our physical and spiritual senses to feel connecting to each other in an enduring fashion. Let’s hope we can keep that lesson going as we teach our children born into this amazingly instant-information age.

RVSB

Our children and networking websites: a glimpse of the future

Yesterday I walked into my local U.S. Post Office with my son T.A. in my arms while balancing the 4 small packages I was endeavoring to send off Priority Mail style.  Which, by the way, kudos to our USPS for putting these self-service kiosks in along with standard mail supplies so people like parents of small children can get stuff done without necessarily waiting in that long, winding line in the main area.

I set my son on one of the work tables and held him with one arm as I addressed and sealed my packages with my free hand.  All the while I am feeling proud of myself for getting this minor task done without a meltdown or acting-out by my 21 month old. 

My happy-go-lucky soundtrack in my mind is suddenly shattered by the one-way conversation I overheard as a lady walks up talking on her cell phone.  “Well, you know they are going to ask us soon enough to have a Facebook account as they’ll be 10 and 11 years old soon, and well we will have to deal with it but yeah, there is just so much danger with these things that they don’t realize…”

If she said anything further I didn’t hear the words,  had already tuned the lady out as I begin to dwell on the idea of my child wanting to have his own link to a networking site one day when he is an adolescent, a bulging teenager.  The very thought jarred me completely, I was weighed down by the realization that the challenges continue to get more complicated as our beloved children grow.

My son argues with me nowadays with grunts and wordless syllables that can most easily be pacified by a food treat or changing the subject.  What will it be like when he is going back and forth with me in long sentence diatribes about how unfair I am to keep him from connecting to the internet unfettered.

Is it so far-fetched of me to think that allowing kids to log on to the internet with no supervision is much worse than letting them drive cars at 16 years old?  Why do we as parents feel that we must accept computers and the internet as the new norm for our children? 

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur when it comes to technology, but I just don’t think that developing bodies and minds should become so dependent on them.  Should they know how to use them–of course!  Should they use the internet for all their research projects?  I truly believe the answer should be no but am willing to permit perhaps 25% from that source.  It’s not helpful to guide the next generation to get all their answers to life and interactions in friendship and love through these silly keyboards and mouse clickers.

I know some of you may be angered by my opinion and it is understandable if your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Oh yeah? Just you wait until you have to deal with this issue from your child.”  But I also know that we as parents can stick to what we believe is right for our children. 

For instance, my husband and I agreed that it was important to us that we avoid having our son watch commercial TV prior to me giving birth to him.  21 months later and I can honestly say that we have succeeded with a couple concessions, in the last few months we have allowed him to see us watching our Alma Mater college football games and we started a couple bilingual videos that he watches every other day and sometimes daily.  We also had to cut back our own viewing of TV in order to accomplish this and feel we have benefited from it as well.

It’s by no means easy to be a parent, especially in the 21st century when technology can be a useful tool and yet also a divisive instrument that can alienate families in their own home (picture family evening with dad with blackberry, child with Ipod, child with laptop, mom with cell phone texting, etc).

Ultimately, you make the choice as to what’s appropriate whether it be to allow a Facebook page for your son or daughter–I hope for you it is the choice that makes you feel at peace as you raise your child(ren).

RSVB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"